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Venezuelan President Claims Americans Detained for 'Espionage'

The claim that several U.S. citizens, including a pilot, have been detained in Venezuela could not be verified by embassy officials.

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said his government had captured Americans, including a pilot, involved in espionage activities and said U.S. citizens in the future will have to seek visas to come to the OPEC nation.

Speaking during a rally Saturday, Maduro said his government will prohibit some U.S. officials from entering the country in retaliation for a similar measure by the government of President Barack Obama against a group of Venezuelan public officials.

"We have captured some U.S. citizens in undercover activities, espionage, trying to win over people in towns along the Venezuelan coast," he said, adding that one was a U.S. pilot taken in the convulsed border state of Tachira.

"In Tachira, we captured a pilot of a U.S. plane [who is] of Latin origin [carrying] all kinds of documentation," Maduro said, without offering details. A spokesman for the U.S. Wmbassy in Caracas said he was unable to comment, citing a lack of any official diplomatic communication with the Venezuelan government.

Maduro also banned a number of prominent U.S. citizens from entering the country, adding George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, former CIA director George Tenet and some members of Congress to a "terrorist list." One of those banned, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Florida, was unimpressed.

"I've always wanted to travel to a corrupt country that is not a free democracy. And now Castro's lap dog won't let me!" Diaz-Balart said in a tweet. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, were also banned.

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— Reuters and NBC News