WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has revoked the visa of the Venezuelan ambassador to the United States in a retaliatory move after Venezuela rejected the U.S. choice to be the next envoy to the South American country.
A diplomat familiar with the situation said the decision to revoke Bernardo Alvarez Herrera's visa came after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez withdrew his approval of the administration's choice to represent the U.S. in Caracas, Larry Palmer. The diplomat said Alvarez is currently not in the U.S.
The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The State Department earlier Wednesday declined to comment on Chavez's moves, citing visa privacy concerns, but said Venezuela would face consequences for its refusal to accept the choice of Palmer.
Chavez has said he will not accept Palmer to be ambassador due to comments he made earlier this year suggesting that morale is low in Venezuela's military and that he is concerned Colombian rebels are finding refuge in Venezuela.
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."
Toner said the U.S. regrets the Venezuelan government's decision to block Palmer's appointment, saying, "It affects our ability to carry out normal diplomatic relations."
Another official, speaking on background to discuss sensitive diplomatic issues, said the U.S. has taken "appropriate and corresponding action" in response to Venezuela's actions and directed questions on Alvarez's status to Venezuela.