CARACAS, Venezuela (CBSMiami) – Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Tuesday the U.S. must expel the Venezuelan diplomats after the Latin American country allegedly threw out an Air Force attaché earlier in the day.
“These provocative actions cannot go without severe repercussions and I call on the Department of State to reciprocate this action by expelling the highest ranking Venezuelan official at its embassy in Washington, D.C.,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.
Ros-Lehtinen’s action came after Venezuelan Vice-President Nicolas Maduro said that an American diplomat would be expelled for allegedly spying and plotting with military leader to destabilize Venezuela.
“We are aware of the allegations made by Venezuelan Vice President Maduro over state-run television in Caracas, and can confirm that our Air Attaché, Col. David Delmonico, is en route back to the United States,” a Defense Department spokesman said.
According to CBS News analyst David Martin, an Air Force attaché typically visits foreign bases and meets with local air force officers, but is not a spy in the common understanding of the term. It’s also not the first time a member of the U.S. embassy in Caracas has been accused of plotting a coup.
During the Bush Administration, Venezuela accused the U.S. of involvement in a plot to overthrow Chavez, but no one ever produced any evidence the U.S. knew about the plot or was involved.
By 3:30 p.m., Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua said a second U.S. diplomat had been declared persona non grata.
Vice-President Maduro wasn’t done though and said that the United States or other outsiders was behind the cancer that was ravaging Chavez’s body, according to NPR.
According to CBS News, the State Department has asked the Pentagon for the identity of the Venezuelan air force attaché in Washington, which could mean that attaché will be kicked out in retaliation, which is typical for these types of situations.
Chavez is reportedly battling a new infection and is suffering from respiratory problems as well. Chavez has had four surgeries to deal with his cancer. The Venezuelan president is currently in a military hospital.