May 29, 2008
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela said on Thursday it arrested a man who identified himself as a U.S. anti-drugs agent, which if confirmed could inflame tensions between the United States and one of its biggest oil suppliers.
President Hugo Chavez in 2005 ended cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), saying the agency was spying on him. The United States denied the charge and says Chavez does too little to stop trafficking from neighboring Colombia, the world's largest cocaine exporter.
Gen. Gabriel Oviedo said the man was acting suspicious when he was detained close to the border with Colombia while bearing Canadian and French passports and a Venezuelan identity card.
"The official at the scene proceeded to interrogate him and he said he was a DEA agent," Oviedo told state television.
The U.S. Embassy in Caracas said it had no knowledge of the arrest.
Relations have deteriorated since a failed 2002 coup against Chavez that Washington initially welcomed.
Tensions increased this month. The United States said new evidence of Chavez's ties to Colombian rebels was troubling, while the leftist charged a U.S. military jet that entered Venezuelan airspace was spying on the OPEC nation.
(Reporting by Carlos Rodriguez and Brian Ellsworth; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Saul Hudson and Eric Walsh)