Monday, January 16, 2012

Update: Venezuelan Foreign Minister Accuses Exiles of Threatening Consulate Staff

According to a statement made on Sunday (January 16) by Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's foreign minister, "Venezuelan exiles with links to terrorism" have threatened officials at the Venezuelan Consulate General in Miami. Unfortunately, Maduro failed to offer evidence of such an allegation.

Maduro called out a group called Venezuelan Persecution Victims in Exile, which had taken part in public demonstrations against the consulate general. Maduro said it sought to provoke the diplomatic tiff and noted that the group's leader, Jose Antonio Colina, is wanted in Venezuela on terrorism-related charges of attacking the Spanish Embassy and Colombian Consulate in 2003.

COMMENT: In the absence of any direct evidence to support Maduro's claim, the foreign minister's comment is apparently yet another example of disinformation disseminated by the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez, which is notorious for making allegations it cannot prove.

Colina has denied any role in the bombings, saying many people saw him elsewhere at the time of the attacks. He alleges the Venezuelan government is trying to persecute him for taking part in earlier protests by dissident military officers against Chavez.

Livia Acosta Noguera, Venezuela's former consul general in Miami, was ordered out of the US last weekend following an FBI investigation into allegations that she discussed a possible cyber-attack on the US 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 the students at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Univision alleged Acosta was seeking information about the servers of nuclear power plants on US soil.

As a seasoned and accredited diplomat, Ms. Acosta should have known the risk she took in conspiring with Cuban and Iranian diplomatic missions, particularly in light of grave tensions between Iran and the US. She deserved to be declared persona non grata.

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