Chavez Orders U.S. Ambassador to Leave Venezuela Within 72 Hours

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered the U.S. ambassador to leave within 72 hours, in a show of support for Bolivian President Evo Morales, who also expelled the top U.S. diplomat from his country.

By Jose Orozco and Matthew Walter - Bloomberg

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U.s. Ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy (AFP)
U.s. Ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy (AFP)
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Sept. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
ordered the U.S. ambassador to leave within 72 hours, in a show
of support for Bolivian President Evo Morales, who also expelled
the top U.S. diplomat from his country.

Chavez recalled his ambassador to the U.S. and said he won't
send another envoy to Washington until after the U.S. presidential
elections in November. Both Chavez and Morales have accused the
U.S. of backing opposition movements in their countries.

``The U.S. is behind the plan against Bolivia, behind the
terrorism,'' Chavez said at a political rally for candidates of
his United Socialist Party of Venezuela. ``We're committed to
being free. Enough crap from you Yankees.''

Chavez, a self-proclaimed socialist who refers to the U.S.
as an ``empire,'' also threatened to halt Venezuelan oil
shipments to the U.S. if it starts an attack on his country.
Venezuela is the fourth-biggest supplier of foreign crude oil to
the U.S.

Jennifer Rahimi, a spokeswoman at the U.S. embassy in Caracas
said ambassador Patrick Duddy hadn't yet received official
notification of his expulsion, as of 8:30 p.m. New York time.

State Department spokesman Noel Clay said there hasn't been
any official communication through diplomatic channels.

Bolivian Envoy

Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador yesterday amid charges
that he supported regional leaders backing more autonomy. The
U.S. responded today by ordering Bolivia's ambassador to
Washington to leave.

Morales's move came during a week of intensifying political
disputes between his government and regional leaders opposed to
a new constitution and energy taxes. Morales frequently charged
U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg with conspiring with opposition
groups, an accusation the State Department called ``baseless.''

Relations between Venezuela and the U.S. have become
increasingly strained over the past year, as George W. Bush's
administration stepped up allegations Chavez is providing
funding to Marxist guerrillas in neighboring Colombia, and
ignoring the increased flow of illegal drugs crossing his
country's borders.

Chavez has countered that the Bush administration is
helping opposition parties in Venezuela try to overthrow him.