Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said his foreign minister was detained by U.S. authorities at a New York airport Saturday for more than hour as he tried to return home.
Chavez told Venezuela's state TV broadcaster that U.S. officials alleged that Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro had links to a failed coup that Chavez led in Venezuela in 1992.
But U.N. diplomat said that Maduro's passage was delayed at John F. Kennedy International Airport because he had showed up late without a ticket.
The diplomat, who spoke condition of anonymity because not authorized to speak publicly, said that under U.S. government regulations, anyone who shows up late and buys a ticket in cash has to be put through secondary screening at the airport.
Maduro missed his flight because of this, said the diplomat. He add that officials did what they could to get him on the flight but there wasn't enough time.
Both Venezuelan politicians were in New York this week attending the yearly U.N. General Assembly, where Chavez attracted attention with a speechHe later criticized the U.S. leader during a stop in Harlem before returning home.
"They have held him accusing him of participating in terrorist acts here," Chavez said in Venezuela. "He didn't even participate in that patriotic rebellion."
In 1992, Chavez, then a lieutenant colonel in the army, led a failed uprising aimed at ousting then-President Carlos Andres Perez.
Maduro told CNN Espanol shortly after being released that he was confined to a small room and told to remove his clothes.
Maduro said that when he explained that he was the Venezuelan foreign minister and showed his diplomatic passport, he said he was threatened, pushed and yelled at by immigration and police officials.
"They were violating diplomatic conventions," he said.
Maduro told Venezuela private TV station Globovision separately that U.S. authorities said a code on his airplane ticket identified him as "almost a terrorist."
"This is an outrageous incident, repudiable from all points of view and unacceptable," Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said, adding Venezuela would protest to the U.S. government