Top Venezuela official slams US hostility after airport stop

A top Venezuelan official railed against the United States after being stopped at a Mexican airport Saturday while traveling on official business.

Venezuelan ombudsman Tarek William Saab said he had been questioned by officials acting on a request from the U.S. when he arrived at a Mexico City airport on his way to a conference on human rights.

Saab said officials informed him that Interpol had issued an alert at the request of the U.S. that asked Mexican authorities to question him about the reason for his visit and the length of his stay. He did not say on what grounds he had been targeted.

"I consider this totally offensive," he said in an interview broadcast on state television. "This alert was designed to provoke and inconvenience a Venezuelan official."

He said he will lodge a complaint with Mexican and other authorities.

Neither Interpol nor the Mexican foreign ministry could be immediately reached for comment. U.S. Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said the department had no comment regarding Saab's comments.

As ombudsman, Saab is in charge of defending human rights in Venezuela. Before assuming this post, he served as governor of a coastal Venezuelan state.

The U.S. has increasingly targeted Venezuelan officials it accuses of drug trafficking and human rights violations.

Last year, a former head of Venezuelan military intelligence was arrested after he touched down in Aruba on a U.S. warrant pending an extradition request on drug-trafficking charges. He was ultimately released and sent back to Venezuela after a diplomatic tussle.

Earlier this year, the U.S. sanctioned a laundry list of top officials it accuses of committing human rights violations during a crackdown on anti-government protesters. And U.S. prosecutors are reportedly investigating the powerful leader of Venezuela's congress as part of a drug trafficking probe.

Relations between the two countries have long been tense, and have sunk to new lows this year.