WASHINGTON — A Venezuelan diplomat ordered out of the United States last weekend left the country only this week, an Obama administration official said Wednesday, even though Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claimed she had long since returned home.
Livia Acosta Noguera, Venezuela's consul general in Miami, was in the United States on Sunday when she received notice that she was being expelled, the official said. She was given until Tuesday to leave the country, and she met the deadline, said the official, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.
Acosta's expulsion followed allegations that she discussed possible cyber-attacks on U.S. soil while she was stationed at the Venezuelan Embassy in Mexico.
Chavez claimed on Monday night that Acosta returned to Venezuela in December, learning of her looming expulsion from Venezuelan intelligence. "We already knew this was going to happen," Chavez said during a live television broadcast, flanked by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Chavez said Acosta left Miami to "avoid situations that could become even more dangerous." He derided her expulsion as "another demonstration of arrogance from the ridiculous empire."
Acosta will continue working in Venezuela's foreign service despite, he added, saying she remained an honorable professional despite being "verbally attacked, reviled, demonized."
The State Department on Sunday gave Acosta 72 hours to leave, standard diplomatic procedure for someone declared persona non grata.
The move came after an FBI investigation into allegations detailed in a documentary aired by the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision last month. According to the documentary, "The Iranian Threat," Acosta discussed a possible cyber-attack against the U.S. government while assigned as a diplomat in the Venezuelan Embassy in Mexico.
The documentary was based on recordings of conversations with her and other officials, and alleged that Cuban and Iranian diplomatic missions were involved. Citing audio and video obtained by the students at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Univision said Acosta was seeking information about the servers of nuclear power plants in the U.S.
After the documentary aired, the State Department called the allegations "very disturbing" and officials said the FBI was investigating.
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