The online news portal of TV5
CARACAS -- President Hugo Chavez said Friday that a US "mercenary" arrested for illegally entering Venezuela confessed to having served in the Marines and had been to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The US State Department earlier said it had not been informed about the arrest of any US citizen in Venezuela but that Caracas should "uphold its obligations" and allow consular staff to meet with the detainee if he is indeed an American.
A day after saying said the man of Latino descent appeared to be a "mercenary," Chavez told reporters he had "confessed" to having served in the US Marines.
"He confessed to having been a Marine. He said he had served in the Marines, (but) he refuses to cooperate," Chavez said.
The firebrand leftist leader did not identify the man but said he had been to Iraq in 2006, Jordan in 2007 and Afghanistan various times since 2004. He said the man was detained in the past week, without giving a specific date.
The State Department said in a statement that it had seen reports of the arrest but had not been formally notified by Venezuelan authorities.
"If it has in fact detained a US citizen, we are confident Venezuela will uphold its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and grant US consular officials access to any detained US citizen without delay."
Chavez is a vocal critic of Washington.
The United States and Venezuela have had troubled relations for years, and have not had ambassadors in each other's country since 2010.
The Venezuelan president, who took power in 1999, is seeking re-election in October after declaring himself free of the cancer he has battled for a year.
He has often denounced "American imperialism" and accused the United States of seeking to destabilize his government.