Photo: Chavez in Venezuela
Venezuela will respond to the U.S. expulsion of its consul in Miami by closing - at least temporarily - its consulate in the Florida city, President Hugo Chavez said Friday.
“Foreign Minister Nicolas (Maduro) has recommended to close the consulate, well, we’ll close it then,” the socialist leader said while offering his annual state of the union report to Venezuela’s National Assembly.
The announcement comes five days after the U.S. State Department declared Venezuelan Consul General Livia Acosta Noguera persona non grata and ordered her to leave the country within 48 hours.
The department did not provide any details about the reasons for the expulsion.
Chavez said Friday that he rejected advice from some in his government to retaliate by kicking out a U.S. diplomat.
“I have no reason to expel any United States consul, of whom we have several,” the president said, adding that he decided instead on an “administrative closure” of the Miami consulate pending further review.
“It’s unjust, it’s abusive, it’s immoral,” he said of the U.S. move against Acosta, “who was simply doing her duty, her work as consul.”
Acosta’s expulsion followed the airing on the U.S. Spanish-language network Univision of a program that identified her as one of several Venezuelan and Iranian diplomats who explored an offer from Mexican hackers to infiltrate the Web sites of the White House, the FBI, the Pentagon and U.S. nuclear plants.
Chavez denounced the accusations as lies, while an Iranian diplomat interviewed for the program said he received such an offer, suspecting the ostensible Mexican hackers were really working for the CIA.