Venezuela detains American pilot for 'coup' plot
An American pilot was seized by the Venezuelan government and is being accused of plotting a coup against President Maduro. The pilot - with "Latino roots" according to the government - was captured near the Colombian border.
The pilot joins several other Americans who have recently been detained by the increasingly paranoid Maduro.
The President said the pilot, who has not been named, was part of a group of six U.S. nationals arrested in the state of Táchira, near the Colombian border, in the last few days.
Addressing a rally on Saturday, Maduro said the man had 'documentation' that suggested he was involved in 'espionage' and 'recruitment'.
It comes after four missionaries were questioned over alleged 'spying' after running a medical assistance campaign in the coastal town of Ocumare de la Costa.
A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Caracas said he was unable to comment, citing a lack of any official diplomatic communication with the Venezuelan government.
Maduro, Hugo Chavez's left wing successor, has waged a bitter war of words against the U.S. in recent weeks.
Last week he accused the White House - which he dubbed 'arrogant Yankees' - of trying to overthrow him. The Obama administration vehemently denied the charge.
In his latest attack, Maduro said his government will prohibit some U.S. officials from entering Venezuela in retaliation for a similar measure by the government of President Barack Obama against a group of Venezuelan public officials.
He said U.S. tourists will also be subject to hefty visa fees - akin to those Venezuelans must pay to visit America.
The two countries have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010. Nonetheless, they have continued to exchange diplomatic staff. On Saturday, Maduro said the U.S. has far more officials in Venezuela than his socialist government has in the U.S.
'They have 100 diplomats and we have 17,' Maduro said.
In an address that all Venezuelan television and radio stations were required to carry, Maduro addressed Obama directly, saying the U.S. president has 'arrogantly' refused to engage in talks to resolve the issues between the two countries.
'I'm very sorry, Mr. President, that you have gone down this dead end,' he said.
Maduro is also ratcheting up the price of a tourist visa to $160. And he continues to put restrictions on American diplomats.
Opposition protests are growing following the arrest of the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma - a leading opposition figure. He, too, has been charged with plotting with America to overthrow the government.
Maduro has gone off the deep end and it appears he is losing control. Rumors of a military coup have been circulating, but that isn't likely - at least among the general officers. Besides, Maduro inherited Hugo Chavez's Cuban body guards and advisors. They aren't likely to turn on him.
With the falling price of oil, Venezuela has bee crippled economically. Maduro has no answers and the people are getting restless. Opposition protests will only grow, feeding his sense of paranoia.
It looks like both the economy and the president are going to have a simultaneous meltdown.