CARACAS - Venezuelan authorities have arrested the American captain of a US-flagged cargo ship after finding three rifles on board, an embassy official said.

The detention follows last month's arrest of another US citizen who entered illegally from neighboring Colombia and was denounced as a possible "mercenary" by President Hugo Chavez.

Socialist Chavez, who seeks re-election next month, is a ferocious critic of Washington, and his nearly 14-year rule has been characterized by frequent bilateral spats and incidents.

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