President Hugo Chavez said he’s ready for the U.S. to expel Venezuela’s ambassador to the U.S. and break off diplomatic ties as part of a five-month feud over the Obama administration’s choice to be its top envoy to Caracas.
“If the U.S. government is going to expel our ambassador there, then do it. If the U.S. government is going to break off diplomatic relations - do it,” Chavez said in comments carried on state television. “It’s not my fault. It’s theirs for naming an ambassador who immediately goes to the press to rant against the country where he is going as ambassador.”
State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said Dec. 20 “there will be consequences” to Venezuela’s decision to protest President Barack Obama’s nomination of diplomat Larry Palmer as the next American ambassador to Caracas.
Chavez rejected Palmer’s nomination after the career diplomat and former U.S. Ambassador to Honduras told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July that the Venezuelan army has low morale and that members of the government have “clear ties” with terrorist organizations in neighboring Colombia.
Palmer’s nomination is pending confirmation by the U.S. Senate, and the White House doesn’t intend to withdraw his name, Crowley said.
While warning that Venezuela’s refusal to welcome Palmer would hurt already-strained relations, the State Department did not say what steps the administration may take.
Chavez said on Dec. 18 that Palmer would be turned back at the airport if he were to board a plane for Venezuela.
Chavez had expelled the previous U.S. ambassador, Patrick Duddy, in 2008, in solidarity with Bolivia, which sent home the American ambassador there and accused the U.S. of backing opposition movements in both countries.
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