September 12, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)- Reacting to the expulsion of its ambassador to Venezuela, the Bush administration attempted to retaliate by expelling the already withdrawn Venezuelan ambassador to the U.S.
Also, at the same time, U.S. officials announced sanctions against three Venezuelan government officials for alleged involvement in drug trafficking and support for terrorism. Relations between the U.S. and Venezuela thus reached an all-time low.
President Hugo Chavez announced Thursday evening that he is giving the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy, 72 hours to leave the country, in a move signaling solidarity with Bolivia, which had ejected the U.S. ambassador there just a day earlier.
Bolivia declared the U.S. ambassador "persona non grata" in response to evidence that he had met with opposition groups during the violent upheavals that are currently taking place in Bolivia and which have left eight people dead.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack called the Venezuelan and Bolivian actions "a grave error" that were based on "the weakness and desperation of these leaders as they face internal challenges..."
Presumably McCormack was referring to the opposition's violent protests in Bolivia and the upcoming regional elections in Venezuela.
McCormack went on to say, "Charges leveled against our fine ambassadors by the leaders Bolivia and Venezuela are false and the leaders of those countries know it," he said. "The only overthrow we seek is that of poverty."
Even though Chavez announced that simultaneously with the expulsion of the U.S. ambassador he would withdraw Venezuela's ambassador to the U.S., McCormack announced today, "We have informed the Venezuelan ambassador to the United States that he will be expelled and that he should leave the United States."
Meanwhile, Venezuela's foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, said that he is issuing a call to all countries of the world to denounce U.S. efforts to destabilize the governments of Bolivia and Venezuela via coup attempts. Yesterday pro-Chavez TV host Mario Silva revealed phone conversations between military officials who appeared to be planning an overthrow of the Chavez government.
"We call on the governments of the continent and of the world that we stand up, that we denounce and internationally repudiate these perverse and criminal plans of the Venezuelan ultra-right, where important agents of the U.S. government are involved," said Maduro on CNN Thursday night.
The president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya was one of the governments to respond to the developing conflict between Bolivia and the U.S. when he ordered to temporally suspend the reception of diplomatic credentials from U.S. diplomats to his country. The U.S. recently sent a new ambassador to Honduras who the Honduran president was to receive today.
"The government decided to temporarily suspend the reception of the [U.S.] Ambassador's letter of credentials in solidarity with President Evo Morales," an unnamed Honduran official told Reuters.
Bolivia's Ambassador to Venezuela, Alvarado Rivas, thanked President Chavez for his solidarity, saying, "The words of the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez Frias, are a backing and incentive for the government of Evo Morales and the people of Bolivia, to continue in the struggle for the defense of democracy."
According to Rivas, in the past the White House and Bolivian elites "invented the myth that we could not react against the empire because rebelling against them would mean dying as a nation and as a people."
U.S. Imposes Sanctions of Venezuelan Officials
In addition to the expulsion of Venezuela's ambassador to the U.S., Treasury Department officials announced that three Venezuelan officials are being sanctioned for their alleged support of Colombian "narco-terrorists," in reference to the Colombian guerilla group known as the FARC.
One of the Venezuelan officials was former Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacín, who resigned just last week "for personal reasons," according to him. Rodriguez Chacín was one of the main intermediaries in Venezuela' effort to mediate a humanitarian accords for the release of high profile hostages that the FARC holds.
Other officials on whom the U.S. placed sanctions are Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios, who directs Venezuela's military intelligence service, and Henry de Jesus Rangel Silva, who directs the civilian intelligence service known as DISP. The U.S. treasury department says that all three officials have aided the FARC with drug trafficking and arms smuggling.
The sanctions mean that the U.S. "freezes any assets the designated entities and individuals may have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions involving those assets," according to a Treasury statement.