The United States government “has no interest or intent to destabilize the Venezuelan government,” U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said Thursday in response to teleSUR’s report that its embassy in Caracas is being used to spy on the South American nation.
The comments come after teleSUR revealed Wednesday that U.S. intelligence agents posing as diplomats, working out of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, helped the National Security Agency obtain internal communications from Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela—and aided its effort to crack PDVSA’s computer network wide open.
Kirby did not deny the report.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, DC, Kirby did deny that U.S. espionage is ever aimed at benefiting U.S. corporations.
“That’s U.S. policy,” he said. “There’s no intent to use electronic surveillance to benefit commercial gains. That’s not changed.”
Kirby also said that while the U.S. government “regularly reviews our policies for electronic surveillance,” it does not “comment publicly about all that.” He added that “our government will respond through diplomatic channels.”
On Thursday morning, Alejandro Fleming, Venezuela’s deputy foreign minister, delivered a formal letter of protest to the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Lee McClenny.
McClenny is the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela after former President Hugo Chavez expelled the last ambassador in 2008. At the time, Chavez accused Washington of using a diplomatic cover to foment another coup d’etat.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro responded to teleSUR’s reporting on Wednesday, calling on his foreign minister to immediately begin revising his country’s relations with the United States.
Speaking Thursday, Kirby suggested Venezuela’s response to the report of U.S. spying was an act of deflection.
“We’ve seen many times that the Venezuelan government tries to distract from its own actions by blaming the United States and other countries for events inside its own country,” he said.
The U.S. Embassy has declined teleSUR’s requests for comment, referring all questions to the State Department.