El Nuevo Herald
November 11, 2008
Saying that Venezuela was providing consular services in a location that hadn't been approved, the U.S. government ordered a dozen Venezuelan diplomats to leave the country
The State Department on Sunday ordered a dozen Venezuelan diplomats who staffed the Venezuelan consulate in Houston to leave the United States.
The Venezuelan government had denied that a diplomatic impasse occurred between the two nations before the order was ratified by State Department officials Monday.
The Venezuelan diplomats had allegedly violated administrative procedures and protocol by operating consular services from a new location without having obtained clearance from the State Department.
According to State Department spokesperson, Robert Wood, the Venezuelan Consulate in Houston did not wait for official authorization before moving to its new offices and began providing consular services without the requisite permission, violating laws of protocol governing foreign representations.
On Saturday, the Houston Chronicle reported on the State Department expulsion, though the Venezuelan government continued to deny the expulsions ever happened.
However, Wood said Monday that the State Department had warned the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington on Oct. 2 that the consulate in Houston should ''immediately cease operations'' at the new location that had not been officially approved.
Wood noted that the Venezuelan consulate continued operating despite the warnings.
Consequently, Wood said that, ``on Oct. 31, the State Department informed the Venezuelan Embassy that it planned to remove the privileges and immunities of the Venezuelan consular team and cancel their diplomatic visas.''
''The State Department, therefore, invited these individuals to leave the United States,'' Wood said.
The State Department will allow Venezuela to continue operating its consulate in Houston temporarily, ``until the Venezuelan government solicits visas for a new replacement team.''
Neither the Foreign Ministry in Caracas nor the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington has commented on the expulsion of the diplomats.
The diplomatic impasse caused the removal of Venezuelan Consul Antonio Padrino, who has been in charge of the Houston consulate since 2005.
Padrino previously served as a press attaché to the Venezuelan Consulate in Miami.
The expulsion of the Houston-based Venezuelan diplomats comes just a few weeks following the expulsion of the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy.
He was asked to leave by President Hugo Chávez as an act of solidarity with the Bolivian government that also expelled the U.S. ambassador in La Paz.