Venezuela Issues Diplomatic Protest Over Treatment of Foreign Minister in New York

Venezuela's foreign minister on Tuesday lodged a protest with the U.S. ambassador over his temporary detainment at a New York airport.

Nicolas Maduro met with U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield and submitted a letter expressing his government's "energetic protest over the action taken by immigration officials of the U.S. government." He demanded that Washington publicly make amends for the "unfriendly, reprehensible and unacceptable" incident.

Maduro says authorities at John F. Kennedy International Airport tried to frisk him and threatened to handcuff him Saturday as he prepared to board a flight home after attending the U.N. General Assembly.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials have denied that Maduro was mistreated, and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton on Monday called Maduro's protest "street theater" and propaganda.

Maduro and Brownfield's meeting Tuesday came hours after Chavez warned that Venezuela would respond with "equal treatment" if the New York incident were repeated.

Brownfield said he had "a good meeting and a good conversation" with Maduro and that the foreign minister had touched upon issues important to the U.S., including "events and incidents from the last week in New York." He declined to elaborate further.

Chavez earlier suggested that he would not dwell on the matter, telling reporters, "The truth is that I turned the page on that."

Chavez slammed U.S. officials for suggesting that Venezuela would make the U.N. Security Council unworkable if the South American nation were to win its bid against U.S.-backed Guatemala for a rotating council seat.

"It's more evidence of how the U.S. government sees itself as the owner of the world," Chavez told reporters at the presidential palace. "It's the United States that should leave the Security Council."

The U.S. government has sought to block Venezuela's bid for a seat, and the race is to be decided by a secret-ballot U.N. vote next month.

Last week at the United Nations, Chavez called U.S. President George W. Bush "the devil," increasing already tense relations between Caracas and Washington. The U.S. government has often criticized Chavez, saying he is a destabilizing force in Latin America and questioning his commitment to democracy.

Chavez has called the U.S. government the greatest threat facing the world, pointing to the war in Iraq and U.S. invasions of countries from Grenada to Panama.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Monday that Venezuela would make the Security Council ineffective if it wins a seat.

"It would mean the end of consensus on the Security Council," Rice was quoted as saying.

Referring to the Venezuelan leader's U.N. speech, Rice said, "I think Hugo Chavez did himself no good with that speech. And whatever press attention it got, it also got the attention of a lot of people who worry about the responsibilities of the Security Council."

U.S. officials have apologized to Venezuela for Maduro's detainment in New York on Saturday. The foreign minister said he was detained for 90 minutes in what he called a flagrant violation of international law and his diplomatic immunity.

Maduro said he refused to obey an official who ordered him to go to another room for a strip-search, and that he and other officials also did not allow authorities to frisk them. Officers also threatened to handcuff him, he said.