On August 29 Venezuelan authorities arrested the captain of a U.S.-flagged cargo ship and have since been holding the 14 other Americans on suspicions of arms or drug trafficking, Paulo Prada of Reuters reports.
The ship, “Ocean Atlas,” docked in Maracaibo in western Venezuela and unloaded a cargo of equipment before it was boarded by Venezuelan police and Interpol, who reportedly received a tip that the vessel carried illegal drugs.
Crewman Russell Macomber, who has been posting updates to his Facebook account while under detention, told Reuters that authorities found no drugs on the vessel but did find three rifles on board.
The weapons, kept under key in a locker, are common on commercial ships on the high seas as possible defence against pirates or other threats.
In the meantime, Macomber keeps posting to his Facebook page using his smartphone, noting early Friday: “Only I could manage to get detained in Venezuela during the last weekend of Key West BrewFest. Dohhhhhhhh!!!!”
By Friday evening he had posted several pictures of the steaks he’s grilling for the detained crew Friday night. In the comments under the photos the crewman’s wife posted the comment: “Be sure to eat all your veggies. I’m not too worried if you are still able to grill.”
Macomber replies: “That’s my pretty momma!!! Bossing me even when I am in a hostage situation :)”
Photo: Facebook/Russell Macomber
At 11 p.m. Easter time Macomber’s final post of the day said: “Going to bed. No jokes tonight, just heartfelt thanks for all you wonderful people out there who care about me and my fellow sailors. God Bless you. Good night. Screw it! Two nuns walk into a bar……”
There has been no response yet from the White House, but some people on Macomb’s Facebook page are writing the President at http://www.whitehouse.gov/.
Forbes notes that the 12-year old ship is a heavy-lift, multipurpose cargo vessel built with a length of 394 feet and often moves cargoes under contract with the U.S. government or for projects financed by the U.S. Export-Import Bank. The ship is owned by Intermarine, a private company headquartered in New Orleans, La.
In 2004 Ocean Atlas became the first U.S. vessel to dock in Libya in 20 years when it was loaded in its entirety with equipment from Libya’s nuclear and other WMD programs arsenal, according to Globalsecurity.org.
Update 09/09: The Ocean Atlas has been released.
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