Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua charged Tuesday that the United States had been plotting to overthrow late president Hugo Chavez.
He also denied that a US decision to expel two Venezuelan diplomats after Caracas ordered two US military officials out was a “tit-for-tat” slap.
The two US officials were expelled last Tuesday, shortly before Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced Chavez had died.
On Saturday, Washington declared the Venezuelan embassy’s second secretary, Orlando Jose Montanez, and consular official Victor Camacaro, both of whom worked in New York, as persona non grata and asked them to leave.
The US order came just 24 hours after the funeral of the staunchly anti-US late Venezuelan leader of 14 years, who died after losing a battle with cancer.
In an interview from Washington with official VTV television, Jaua said the two cases could not be in the “tit-for-tat” category due to what he claimed was the seriousness of the Americans’ actions.
Rather, the US decision to expel the two diplomats was taken by the Venezuelan government as a US “reprisal” for Venezuela’s diplomatic measure removing the two Americans, not a tit-for-tat measure, he said.
“None of the Venezuelans were contacting US army officials to organize a coup d’etat against (President Barack) Obama,” Jaua said, “the way the (American) military attaches were” against Chavez.
Since late president Chavez came to power in 1999, Washington and Caracas have had strained diplomatic ties. They have not had ambassadors in their respective capitals since 2010.