December 9, 2013
Venezuela expels top US diplomat for encouraging 'acts of sabotage'
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said today he was expelling the top US diplomat in the South American nation and two others, accusing them of meeting with opposition leaders and encouraging "acts of sabotage" against his country.
It was the latest of several public disputes between the socialist leader and the United States since Maduro won an April election following the death of his mentor and predecessor Hugo Chavez.
Maduro said Venezuelan authorities had for months followed the three U.S. diplomats, and that he had now given them 48 hours to leave the OPEC member country.
"We detected a group of US embassy officials dedicated to meeting the far-right and to financing and encouraging acts of sabotage against the electrical system and Venezuela's economy," the president said in a televised speech.
"I have the proof here in my hands," Maduro added. "... Yankees go home! Get out of Venezuela! Get out of here! I don't care what actions the government of Barack Obama takes."
He said Venezuela was expelling Kelly Keiderling, who as US chargé d'affaires is the senior American diplomat in Venezuela because the United States has no ambassador to the country. According to a US Embassy website, she has been assigned to Caracas since July 2011 as deputy chief of mission, and was temporarily serving as the charge d'affaires.
Venezuela identified the other two diplomats as Elizabeth Hunderland and David Mutt. The US Embassy had no immediate comment or confirmation regarding the expulsions.
"I'm not going to allow any action that stirs violence in this country," Maduro added.
Responding to the expulsion of the three US diplomats, opposition leader Henrique Capriles said no one believed the "joke alerts" being issued by Maduro's team.
"It's just smoke to cover up that they can't manage the country!" Capriles, who contested the election result after losing to Maduro in April, said on Twitter.