Venezuela sentences man who shot U.S. attaches at strip club

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 30, 2013 5:26 PM

By Daniel Wallis

CARACAS (Reuters) - A Venezuelan man has been sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for shooting and wounding two U.S. military attaches at a strip club in the capital, the attorney general's office said on Friday.

Carlos Mejias, 32, admitted he shot the U.S. Embassy employees in the early hours of May 28, the office said.

It said Mejias got into an argument with them at the Antonella 2012 club, better known as "Angelus," in the city's upscale Chacao district.

"Later he pulled out a gun and repeatedly fired at the Americans, leaving them wounded at the location," it said in a statement.

Five days later, Mejias surrendered to authorities, it said, and was charged with attempted homicide. The U.S. Embassy in Caracas did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

One of the attaches was shot in the leg and the other in the stomach, police said. An embassy statement at the time said the injuries did not appear life-threatening.

Venezuela has one of the world's highest murder rates. Armed robberies and kidnappings are also common, and the U.S. Embassy this month tightened its security rules for travel in the capital by its employees.

Embassy employees must now request armored cars for travel after midnight in many of the city's wealthiest neighborhoods, including Chacao and its surrounding areas, which are home to several foreign embassies.

Diplomats from Mexico, Chile, Belarus and Costa Rica have all been abducted by criminals in Caracas in recent years - embarrassing the government, which has accused the opposition of exaggerating the crime problem to scare voters.

President Nicolas Maduro announced this year the latest campaign to crack down on violent crime. About 20 such efforts have been launched since his predecessor, the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, took office in 1999.

(Reporting by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Peter Cooney)