CARACAS, Friday August 25, 2006 | Update
Maripili Hernández ruled out any breach of the Vienna Convention (Photo: Venancio Alcázares)
The US embassy to Venezuela has denounced the "illegal" inspection of a diplomatic pouch by National Guards in Maiquetía international airport.
According to US Embassy spokesman Brian Penn, the event took place Thursday early morning, shortly after the arrival of a shipment including "personal items" of US diplomats accredited to Venezuela in a flight from the United States. Upon closing this edition, security agencies were still in possession of the cargo.
"National Guard agents violated international diplomatic regulations by checking illegally the diplomatic pouch, property of the US embassy to Caracas," Penn noted. "A National Guard General is included" in the military group, the official added.
The US representative warned that diplomatic pouches are protected by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and Optional Protocols, signed in 1961, and Venezuela is a party thereto. "Therefore, we urge the Venezuelan Government to abide by these principles."
He added that the embassy protested the action. "The State Department in Washington has been advised of this occurrence."
Following the complaint, Venezuelan Vice-Foreign Minister for North-American Affairs Maripili Hernández confirmed the proceeding, but ruled out any breach of international treaties.
She explained that the pouch exceeded the number of items declared by the diplomatic corps and, according to intelligence reports, presumably included some weapons.
"The officials had declared four bags containing clothes, furniture and toys, as part of a move. When the aircraft arrived, we found three lorries. The inspection was made because there were claims of some military equipment in those lorries," Hernández explained. However, Penn "refused absolutely" this version.
The Vice-Foreign Minister noted that two out of the three lorries left the airport without clearing customs. "Regardless of being diplomatic pouch, every individual should go through customs."
In the meantime, the Attorney General Office initiated an investigation in order to find any irregularity by the US Embassy.
Translated by Conchita Delgado
02:57 PM. HEAVY RAINS. Venezuelan Executive Vice-President Elias Jaua reported that the government is designing plans to support farmers, cattlemen and peasants of the state of Mérida who have been hit by heavy rains that have caused crop losses.