The Obama administration has revoked the visa of the Venezuelan ambassador to the United States in a tit-for-tat diplomatic response to Venezuela’s rejection of the US choice to be the next envoy to the South American country.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dared the US government to expel his ambassador, saying he will not allow the US diplomat Larry Palmer to be ambassador because he made what Mr Chavez described as blatantly disrespectful remarks about Venezuela.
“If the government is going to expel our ambassador there, let them do it!” Mr Chavez said, adding: “If they’re going to cut diplomatic relations, let them do it!”
US diplomats familiar with the situation said the decision to revoke Bernardo Alvarez Herrera’s visa came after Mr Chavez’s decision to withdraw his approval of Mr Palmer. The diplomats said Mr Alvarez is currently not in the US
State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said that the US has taken “appropriate, proportional and reciprocal action”.
Mr Palmer, who is awaiting Senate confirmation, angered Mr Chavez by suggesting earlier this year that morale is low in Venezuela’s military and that he is concerned Colombian rebels are finding refuge in Venezuela.
Mr Chavez, whose economy relies heavily on oil sales to the United States, has accused Mr Palmer of dishonouring the Venezuelan government by expressing concerns on several sensitive subjects – including 2008 accusations by the US Treasury Department that three members of Mr Chavez’s inner circle helped Colombian rebels by supplying arms and aiding drug-trafficking operations.
“For an ambassador to come, he has to respect this homeland,” Mr Chavez said.