US revokes Venezuelan envoy's visa, sources say

Move comes after Chavez rejects US choice to be next ambassador to Caracas and dares Washington to cut diplomatic relations.

Chavex dictator  (photo credit: AP)
Chavex dictator
(photo credit: AP)
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration revoked the visa of the Venezuelan ambassador to the United States on Wednesday 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 on Tuesday 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 Chavez described as blatantly disrespectful remarks about Venezuela.
"If the government is going to expel our ambassador there, let them do it!," 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 Chavez's decision to withdraw his approval of Palmer. The diplomats said Alvarez is currently not in the US.
US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said late Wednesday that the US has taken "appropriate, proportional and reciprocal action."
Palmer, who is awaiting Senate confirmation, angered 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.
Chavez, whose economy relies heavily on oil sales to the United States, has accused Palmer of dishonoring the Venezuelan government by expressing concerns on several sensitive subjects — including 2008 accusations by the US Treasury Department that three members of 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," Chavez said.
State Department officials addressed the diplomatic standoff in the agency's daily briefing Wednesday.
"We believe it's in our national interest to have an ambassador in Caracas so that we can candidly express our views and engage with the government of Venezuela," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. "There are tensions in the relationship, and it's precisely because of that that we feel that it's important to have appropriate diplomatic relations."