US expels Venezuelan diplomat from Miami

Published On: Jan 08 2012 08:51:11 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 09 2012 11:01:52 AM EST
WASHINGTON -

The Obama administration is expelling Venezuela's consul general in Miami after allegations surfaced that she discussed possible cyber-attacks on U.S. soil while she was stationed at her country's embassy in Mexico.

The State Department said Sunday that it had declared the diplomat, Livia Acosta Noguera, persona non grata and given her until Tuesday to leave the country. Spokesman Mark Toner said the Venezuelan government was notified of the decision on Friday, giving her 72 hours to depart under standard diplomatic procedure,

There was no immediate reaction from the Venezuelan government.

Toner would not discuss the reason for the expulsion, but said it was done in accordance with Article 23 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. That article does not require the expelling state to explain its decision.

The State Department told Local 10's Christina Vazquez that expulsion of a diplomat happens when two countries have political differences. The last time they expelled someone from the Venezuelan embassy was in 2010. The ambassador was kicked out and never replaced.

The move follows an FBI investigation into allegations contained in a documentary aired by the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision last month. According to the documentary, "The Iranian threat," Acosta discussed a possible cyber-attack against the U.S. government when she was previously assigned as a diplomat in the Venezuelan Embassy in Mexico.

The documentary was based on recordings of conversations with her and other officials, and also 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 said Acosta was seeking information about the servers of nuclear power plants in the U.S.

After the documentary aired, the State Department said the allegations were "very disturbing" and officials said the FBI had opened an investigation into the matter.

Meanwhile on Sunday, Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad kicked off his Latin American tour in Venezuela meeting with its president, Hugo Chavez. The alliance between the two leaders who are at times hostile, but certainly critical, of the US government does not sit well with many in Congress, including Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who dubbed Ahmadinejad's visit, the "Tour of Tyrants."

"This is the appropriate step to take against the Venezuelan General Consul in Miami and highlights the threat posed by Iranian influence in Latin America," Ros-Lehtinen said.