Venezuela: Consulate officials in US threatened

January 15, 2012 - 2:21 PM

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan exiles with links to terrorism have threatened officials at the South American country's consulate in Miami, the foreign minister said Sunday.

Nicolas Maduro did not offer evidence of his claims, which came shortly after President Hugo Chavez said his government would close the consulate in response Washington's expulsion of a Venezuelan diplomat.

Maduro told the state-run AVN news agency that "a group of organizations bringing together Venezuelans who fled justice" in their homeland "have threatened not only the consul but the personnel at out consulate."

Maduro singled out a group called Venezuelan Persecution Victims in Exile, which had taken part in public demonstrations against the consul. Maduro said it sought to provoke the diplomatic spat 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.

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

Livia Acosta Noguera, Venezuela's consul general in Miami, was ordered out of the U.S. last weekend followed 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 the 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.

Maduro called the documentary "trash" and accused U.S. congressmen including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, David Rivera, Robert Menendez and Mario Diaz Balart of backing the anti-Chavez organizations.

The diplomat did not provide details of his allegations against U.S. lawmakers.

Chavez said Friday he decided the consulate will shut its doors in response to what he called an unfair action by the U.S. State Department.