Venezuela sends Miami consulate personnel home

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela is withdrawing personnel from the country’s consulate in Miami more quickly than planned because the personnel have been threatened by exiles with links to terrorism, the foreign ministry announced on Monday.

“With the intention of preserving their physical and moral integrity, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has decided to withdraw its consular personnel,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The decision comes shortly after President Hugo Chavez said his government would close the consulate in response to Washington’s expulsion of a diplomat there.

The accused exiles reject the terrorism charges.

Livia Acosta Noguera, Venezuela’s consul general in Miami, was ordered out of the U.S. last weekend following an FBI investigation into allegations that she discussed a possible cyber-attack on the U.S. government while she was assigned to the Venezuelan Embassy in Mexico. The allegations were detailed in a documentary aired by the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision.

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

The foreign ministry says the consulate will cease functioning once its personnel have returned to Venezuela.