CARACAS – President Hugo Chavez on Sunday rejected the criticism in Miami over the closing of the Venezuelan Consulate in that city after the expulsion of Consul Livia Acosta, and he said that in this case the Venezuelan government had been “run over by the empire.”
“Now that we are closing the consulate administratively over threats against the personnel, they’re accusing me now that it’s a plan to sabotage the primary elections (of the opposition), that it’s an outrage against the Venezuelans who live in Miami,” Chavez told Televen.
“Are you paying attention? Now, we’re the ones running roughshod when we’re the ones being run roughshod over by the empire,” the president said to his interviewer, former Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel.
Hundreds of Venezuelans living in Florida on Saturday protested the closing of the consulate and demanded that it be reopened immediately, arguing that the measure had left them in a “state of defenselessness ... (and) is violating” their rights.
In addition, the consular closing has given rise to speculation about the repercussions it could have on the opposition’s primary election on Feb. 12, although the National Electoral Council has given assurances that Venezuelans living in Miami will be able to vote.
Chavez said that “what the Venezuelan middle class is doing is applauding” the decision of the U.S. government early this month to expel the consul general in a move that he called an “outrage against international law, and an outrage against ethics.”
Washington declared the diplomat persona non grata after the Univision television network broadcast the documentary “La amenaza irani,” which discussed an alleged 2006 plan to stage attacks on several U.S. nuclear plants, the FBI and the CIA.
Some of the people interviewed in the documentary said that the Iranian, Cuban and Venezuelan embassies participated in the plan.
After the expulsion, Chavez ordered the administrative closing of the consulate and the repatriation of its personnel.
Vice President Elias Jaua said on Friday that the measure “has impacts on the activities of citizens who do business (with) the United States or citizens who reside there.”
However, he said that “both the Los Angeles consulate and the New York consulate remain able to carry out ... (consular) functions,” although those two consulates are 3,750 and 1,750 kilometers (2,325 and 1,085 miles) from Miami, respectively.
The vice president said that the reason the Venezuelan government decided to halt “the administrative activities of the consulate was the risk that arbitrary measures would continue to be taken against Venezuelan personnel in Miami.”