US expels top Venezuelan diplomat

 The US has declared Venezuela’s consul general in Miami persona non grata and given her until Tuesday to leave the country, a State Department spokesman said.

The diplomat, Livia Acosta Noguera, is alleged to have discussed possible cyber attacks against the US while stationed at the Venezuelan embassy in Mexico in 2008.
The FBI had been investigating the allegations after four members of Congress wrote to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in December raising “grave concerns” about Acosta.

The US authorities would not comment on the reason for the expulsion.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Sunday that the decision was taken in accordance with Article 23 of the Vienna Convention on consular relations. Under this article, the expelling state is not required to explain its decision.

Last month, a documentary aired on the Spanish-language network Univision alleged that Acosta had discussed a possible cyber attack against the US government with diplomats from the Iranian and Cuban missions, the New York Times said.

The documentary, based on fragments of taped conversations with Acosta and other officials, said she was seeking information about the servers of nuclear power plants in the US.

There was no immediate comment from the Venezuelan government.
The chairwoman of the Committee on Foreign Relations in the US House of Representatives, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said the expulsion “highlights the threat posed by Iranian influence in Latin America”.

On Sunday night, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Venezuela for the first leg of his Latin American tour.

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