The State Department on Tuesday denied Venezuelan charges that three U.S. diplomats in Caracas conspired against the Andean nation and said it is mulling a response to the trio’s expulsion.
“We completely reject the Venezuelan government’s allegations of the U.S. government involvement in any type of conspiracy to destabilize the Venezuelan government,” department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
“In accordance with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations and on consular relations, the United States may take reciprocal action,” for Caracas’ decision to expel the three diplomats, she said.
“We’re still considering what actions we might take,” Psaki added.
The Venezuelan government ordered Kelly Keiderling, Elizabeth Hunderland and David Mutt to leave the country within 48 hours.
Keiderling is the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat in Venezuela.
Relations between the United States and Venezuela have remained at the level of charge d’affaires since late 2010, when Caracas rejected the proposed U.S. ambassador and Washington retaliated by expelling the Venezuelan envoy.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced the expulsion of the U.S. diplomats during a speech on Monday, accusing them of providing funds to members of Venezuela’s “extreme right.”
The right-wing elements used that money to finance sabotage of Venezuela’s electric grid, the president said, alluding to several widespread power blackouts in the oil-rich Andean nation.
His government has evidence of the “hostile, illegal and interventionist attitude of several officials of the United States Embassy in Venezuela,” Maduro said.
Ties between Caracas and Washington soured during the 1999-2013 presidency of the late Hugo Chavez, a vehement critic of U.S. foreign policy who was Maduro’s mentor and predecessor.
An effort to normalize bilateral relations collapsed in July after Maduro’s government took umbrage at comments made by the U.S. representative to the United Nations, Samantha Power, during her Senate confirmation hearing.
Power told senators she would contest “the crackdown on civil society being carried out in countries like Cuba, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela.”