Skip to comments.Chávez expels U.S. diplomat, alleges spying
Posted on 02/03/2006 2:18:42 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
WASHINGTON - Already nasty U.S.-Venezuelan relations took another turn south Thursday when firebrand President Hugo Chávez ordered the expulsion of a U.S. naval attaché in Caracas on spying charges.
The first-ever expulsion of a U.S. diplomat stationed in Venezuela came on the same day that U.S. Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte said Venezuela posed the most serious threat to U.S. interests in Latin America and was seeking closer ties with North Korea and Iran -- both accused of having or seeking nuclear weapons.
Speaking at a nationally televised speech marking the seventh anniversary of his coming to power, Chávez announced that Navy Cmdr. John Correa, an attaché with the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, had been declared persona non grata and should leave the country immediately.
He warned that more expulsions could follow, although the U.S. Embassy in Caracas flatly denied the spying allegations. U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield told the TV channel Globovisión that a government note to the embassy on Correa only accused the officer of conduct out of line with international agreements.
''We have not received any communication from the government that explains the reason,'' for the expulsion, Brownfield said.
Venezuelan media reports have said the case revolves around a CD containing publicly available technical descriptions of military planes that Chávez wants to buy from Spain. The disc was allegedly sent by a retired Venezuelan Capt. José Ignacio Plaza, who lives in Orlando, to his father-in-law, a Caracas dentist who is under arrest.
Prosecutors in Caracas have accused half-a-dozen Venezuelan naval officers of spying for the United States and are allegedly investigating many more. Chávez said Correa tried to recruit naval officers to oppose him ahead of a possible U.S. invasion.
Correa's expulsion could prompt the Bush administration to expel someone at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, and trigger yet another downward spiral in the steadily deteriorating relations between the two nations. The State Department said it had no immediate reaction Thursday.
Chávez, an elected leftist pursuing a self-avowed ''socialist revolution,'' regularly refers to President Bush as ''Mr. Danger'' and blasts ''the empire.'' He also has accused Washington of backing a failed coup against him in 2002.
SPY CHIEF TESTIFIES
U.S. officials flatly deny involvement in the coup attempt and have accused him of supporting leftist subversion around Latin America while imposing an increasingly autocratic rule at home.
Some of the U.S. concerns were reiterated by Negroponte when he told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Chávez was embarked on an ``activist foreign policy in Latin America that includes providing oil at favorable repayment rates to gain allies, using newly created media outlets to generate support for his . . . goals and meddling in the internal affairs of his neighbors by backing particular candidates for elective office.''
He said that if Chávez wins reelection late this year, he will likely be ready ``to continue to stifle the opposition, to reduce press freedom, and entrench himself through measures that are technically legal, but which nonetheless constrict democracy.''
Negroponte's testimony dealt with U.S. concerns over worldwide threats, but Venezuela, a close ally of Cuba and supporter of new Bolivian President Evo Morales, dominated his remarks about Latin America.
''We expect Chávez to deepen his relationship with Castro,'' Negroponte said. ``He also is seeking closer economic, military, and diplomatic ties with Iran and North Korea.''
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in a separate appearance noted that Chávez ''was elected legally, just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally, and then consolidated power.'' He added that Chávez is now working closely with Cuban leader Fidel Castro. ``It concerns me.''
Last month the Bush administration, concerned that Venezuela is embarked on an arms-purchasing spree, blocked the use of U.S. technology in the sale of 12 military patrol and transport aircraft by Spain to Venezuela, potentially foiling the $600 million deal and angering the Spanish government.
FORMER U.S. ALLY
The move also irritated Chávez, who accuses the United States of denying him spare parts for his U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets. The aircraft were purchased in the 1980s, when Venezuela was one of the United States' closest allies in the region.
Venezuela is one of the top five oil exporters to the United States, providing about 1.2 million barrels per day. The Venezuelan government has provided more than 45 million gallons of heating oil at discounted prices to poorer homes in the Northeast, a move that some analysts say is aimed at improving Chávez's image in the United States.
Chávez has taken other actions in the past against U.S. personnel in Caracas, ejecting U.S. military officers from their offices at the Tiuna army base in 2004 and later that year evicting U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents from Venezuelan government installations, also on accusations that they were spying.
Miami Herald special correspondent Phil Gunson contributed to this report from Caracas.
In this photo released by Venezuela's Miraflores Press, President Hugo Chavez attends the commemoration of his government's seventh anniversary at the Teresa Carreno Theater in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2006, where he said that Venezuela will expel the U.S. Embassy's naval attache for allegedly passing secret information from Venezuelan military officers to the Pentagon, and warned that any more espionage will lead him to throw out all U.S. military attaches. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press,Marcelo Garcia)
One can only imagine how painful that must have been. :)
He's going to feel more like a lone stranger after occupations and regime changes in Iran and Cuba.
if iran is punished all the good. but if she is not and she does build nukes, id bet all im worth that she will gift one to mr hugo.
The proper response from Washington would be the expulsion of Cindy Sheehan.
That's a good guess, IMO.
This was only a matter of time. Expect more to follow.
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