US, Venezuela at odds on am­bas­sador, Chavez pow­ers

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

VENEZUELA: Ten­sions be­tween the U.S. and Venezuela flared over Washington's nom­i­nee for am­bas­sador Satur­day as Pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez warned that the diplo­mat would be de­tained and put on the next flight home if he tries to set foot in the coun­try.

For months Chavez has been warn­ing that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama's nom­i­nee, Larry Palmer, would not be wel­come un­der any cir­cum­stances due to crit­i­cal re­marks he made about the Venezue­lan govern­ment. Dur­ing his Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion process, Palmer sug­gested that morale is low in Venezuela's mil­i­tary, and also expressed con­cern about Colom­bian rebels find­ing refuge in Venezuela.

"He went ahead and said what­ever he felt like say­ing, dis­re­spect­ing Venezuela, a group of hon­or­able gen­er­als ... the govern­ment, the Venezue­lan con­sti­tu­tion," Chavez said in a tele­vised speech. "How is he go­ing to be am­bas­sador? He dis­qual­i­fied him­self."

Chavez chuck­led as he ad­dressed For­eign Min­is­ter Nicolas Maduro, say­ing Palmer must be stopped if he at­tempts to fly into Cara­cas' in­ter­na­tional air­port, in nearby Mai­que­tia. "If he ar­rives at Mai­que­tia, grab him, Nicolas, grab him," Chavez said. "Give Mr. Palmer a cof­fee from me, and then 'bye-bye.' He can­not, he can­not en­ter this coun­try."

The U.S. State Depart­ment has in­sisted it stands be­hind Palmer as the best can­di­date for the job. As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of State Ar­turo Valen­zuela said Thurs­day that if the Se­nate con­firms Palmer as am­bas­sador, he will soon be sent to Cara­cas. "With Palmer's ar­rival to Venezuela, we see an ef­fort of both coun­tries to try to es­tab­lish a more fluid di­a­logue," Valen­zuela told re­porters in a con­fer­ence call. "It has to be frank, be­cause we won't be in agree­ment on some things."

Chavez, whose econ­omy re­lies heav­ily on U.S. oil sales, ini­tially expressed op­ti­mism that un­der Obama years of hos­til­ity be­tween Venezuela and the U.S. could ease, but the ten­sions have per­sisted.

Chavez says the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has con­tin­ued to try to un­der­mine his govern­ment. State Depart­ment of­fi­cials have in­creas­ingly voiced con­cerns about threats to per­sonal free­doms and democ­racy in Venezuela. The U.S. govern­ment has been strongly crit­i­cal of de­cree pow­ers granted to Chavez on Fri­day by his con­gres­sional al­lies, shortly be­fore a new Na­tional Assem­bly takes over next month with a larger op­po­si­tion con­tin­gent ca­pa­ble of hin­der­ing ap­proval of some types of laws. -Ap

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