Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro expels top US diplomat

US Embassy denies accusations that its staff 'conspired' with South American country's 'extreme right'

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro today announced the expulsion of the most senior US diplomat in the country for allegedly conspiring with “the extreme right” to sabotage the economy and power grid.

Two other US embassy employees have also been expelled. The embassy said it had not yet received notification from the Venezuelan foreign ministry, but called the accusations unfounded.

Mr Maduro, making the announcement during a live TV appearance, said that the trio had 48 hours to leave the country.

The leftist leader said a group of embassy officials that his government had been following for months was “dedicated to meeting with the Venezuelan extreme right, to financing it and feeding its actions to sabotage the electrical system and the Venezuela economy.”

“I have proof here in my hands,” he said, though he did not offer any details on the diplomats' alleged transgressions other than to say they met with opposition and trade union leaders in the south western state of Bolivar, which is home to a number of troubled state-owned foundries and Venezuela's main hydroelectric plant.

During Mr Maduro's TV announcement he shouted in English, “Yankees go home!”

Those expelled by the authorities were Charge D'Affaires Kelly Keiderling, the top embassy official in the absence of an ambassador, consular officer David Moo and Elizabeth Hoffman, who works in the embassy's political section.

“We completely reject the Venezuelan government's allegations of U.S. government involvement in any type of conspiracy to destabilize the Venezuelan government,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement.

It said the recent trip by Keiderling, Moo and Hoffman consisted of “normal diplomatic engagement,” before adding, “We maintain regular contacts across the Venezuelan political spectrum, including the ruling party.”

The expulsions are the latest example of Mr Maduro's hostility to Washington since he took over from the country’s long-serving president, Hugo Chávez, who died in March.

Venezuela and the United States have been without ambassadors since 2010, when Chavez refused to accept a newly-named US ambassador. In 2008, Chavez expelled then US Ambassador Patrick Duddy in “solidarity” with Bolivia, which was throwing out the US ambassador there, but allowed him to return the following year.

There had been hopes that relations between Caracas and Washington would thaw following the election of Mr Maduro, a former foreign minister, to office. Late last year the two nations held informal talks in order to improve diplomatic relation. But Venezuelan rhetoric towards the US has remained as hostile as they were under Mr Chavez.

The latest expulsions come as Venezuela's economy looks increasingly troubled ahead of local elections on 8 December. Annual inflation is at more than 45 percent and the government is running short of foreign currency.

Ms Keiderling arrived at the embassy in July 2011 as deputy chief of mission after previously working in embassies including in Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Botswana, the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Interests section in Cuba.

The oil-rich OPEC member country has been plagued by worsening power outages since 2010. The Venezuelan opposition blames neglect and poor maintenance, while alleging mismanagement and corruption at struggling state-owned aluminum, iron and bauxite foundries in Bolivar.

A massive power outage on 4 September left around 70 percent of the country without electricity, hitting parts of the capital.

Mr Maduro blames sabotage by the “extreme right” for the blackouts and food shortages, but has provided no evidence. Like Chavez, he has a history of making unsubstantiated accusations against the United States and his political opponents.

Last week, Mr Maduro announced that he had cancelled a planned trip to New York to address the UN General Assembly, due to an unspecified US plot.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee