By Andrew Cawthorne
CARACAS (Reuters) - U.S. officials will be allowed access on Wednesday to an American citizen arrested in Venezuela on suspicion of being a mercenary, President Hugo Chavez said.
Clearly implying a plot was afoot less than two months before a presidential election, the socialist leader has said the man was detained entering illegally from Colombia a week ago and sought to destroy some coordinates in a notebook at the time.
Foes have scoffed at Chavez's statements, saying it is typical of him to invent tales of U.S.-backed aggression against him at election time. Washington has given no information on the case but requested that diplomats have contact with the man.
"Of course we have authorized it," Chavez told reporters. "Tomorrow they will have contact with the detainee."
Though there have been constant diplomatic flare-ups between Washington and Caracas since the ferociously "anti-imperialist" Chavez took power in 1999, the latest incident does not appear to be mushrooming into a major dispute.
Chavez was conciliatory in his latest comments.
"Of course we are going to collaborate with the U.S. government, and I hope they will collaborate with us. The signs we have received, (Foreign Minister) Nicolas (Maduro) tells me, are positive," he said.
Chavez, 58, is fighting for another six-year term at the October 7 vote, but faces a vigorous campaign from a united opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles. Chavez also has been undergoing cancer treatment in the past year.
The president rejected suggestions he was exaggerating the affair of the American's arrest for political purposes.
"Let me repeat, especially for the spokesmen of the bourgeoisie who always try to minimize and trivialize any serious information like this, that this is a person who entered illegally in Tachira (state), fleeing from Colombia," he said.
"We still don't know his intentions. He's detained, being interrogated."
In previous days, Chavez has said the man was an ex-Marine and now a possible mercenary, was resisting questioning, and that stamps in his passport showed he had been to Iraq, Afghanistan and Jordan in recent years.
Chavez has coupled his mentions of the case with accusations that Venezuela's opposition is planning violence if it does not win the October election. Capriles' camp rejects that.
(Editing by Mario Naranjo and Bill Trott)