President Hugo Chavez has ordered the closure of Venezuelan consulate in Miami following a diplomatic scandal involving Venezuelan Consul General Livia Acosta Noguera.
Acosta was declared persona non grata by the US State Department last week. According to the Spanish-language TV station Univision, she was taped discussing an alleged Iranian plot to launch cyber-attacks on sensitive US national security facilities with Mexican students back in 2007, when she was serving at the Venezuelan embassy in Mexico City.
"Foreign Minister [Nicolas Maduro] advised me to close the consulate,” Venezuelan newspaper El Universal quoted Chavez as telling the country’s National Assembly on Friday. “We have shut it down. There is no consulate in Miami.”
Chavez described Acosta’s expulsion as “unfair and outrageous,” but said he would not expel a U.S. diplomat in response to the unfriendly move, “what we will do is closing the consulate while we assess the situation.”
The U.S. authorities have not commented on the reasons for the expulsion.
In December 2011, the U.S. State Department said it was looking into “very disturbing” allegations linking Acosta to the alleged Iranian plot.
The expulsion came as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Venezuela last week as part of his Latin American tour.
“He is a good man and not at all a religious zealot,” Chavez told the National Assembly on Friday.
Ahmadinejad’s visit, which the United States said was a sign that Iran was "desperate for friends,” came amid escalating tensions over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program. Western observers believe Iran seeks to build weapons, while Tehran insists it needs enriched uranium to fuel a reactor producing medical isotopes.