U.S. expels Venezuelan diplomat

U.S. expels Venezuelan diplomat
AP Photo/Javier Caceres

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is expelling Venezuela’s consul general in Miami after allegations surfaced that she discussed possible cyber-attacks on U.S. soil while she was stationed at her country’s embassy in Mexico.

The State Department said Sunday that it had declared the diplomat, Livia Acosta Noguera, persona non grata and given her until Tuesday to leave the country. Spokesman Mark Toner said the Venezuelan government was notified of the decision on Friday, giving her 72 hours to depart under standard diplomatic procedure,

There was no immediate reaction from the Venezuelan government.

Toner would not discuss the reason for the expulsion, but said it was done in accordance with Article 23 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. That article does not require the expelling state to explain its decision.

The move follows an FBI investigation into allegations contained in a documentary aired by the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision last month. According to the documentary, “The Iranian Threat,” Acosta discussed a possible cyber-attack against the U.S. government when she was previously assigned as a diplomat in the Venezuelan Embassy in Mexico.

The documentary was based on recordings of conversations with her and other officials, and also alleged that Cuban and Iranian diplomatic missions were involved. Citing audio and video obtained by the students at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Univision said Acosta was seeking information about the servers of nuclear power plants in the U.S.

After the documentary aired, the State Department said the allegations were “very disturbing” and officials said the FBI had opened an investigation into the matter.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “This is the appropriate step to take against the Venezuelan General Consul in Miami and highlights the threat posed by Iranian influence in Latin America.”

In a statement issued Sunday, Ros-Lehtinen added, “This administration must be more proactive and engaged against the serious threat of Iranian activity in the region and this is a first step in that direction.”