Visas pulled for Venezuelan diplomats over Houston consulate move

Other News Materials 11 November 2008 00:57 (UTC +04:00)

The US has cancelled the diplomatic visas of Venezuelan diplomats at the consulate in Houston after the South American country moved its Texas offices without proper authorization from the US State Department, a deputy spokesman said Monday.

The Venezuelan government had requested authorization to move its consulate in Houston to new office space, but proceeded to move into the space before getting the okay from the US government, deputy State Department spokesman Robert Wood said, dpa reported.

After it learned that the consulate was operating in the facility without authorization, the department warned the embassy to stop working there, however Venezuela continued to to do business. On October 31, the State Department said it would withdraw diplomatic privileges for the staff, cancel diplomatic visas and force them to leave the country, Wood said.

"The department has not withdrawn its permission for Venezuela to operate a consulate at Houston," he said. "We indicated to the Venezuelan Embassy that we would permit a consular officer to serve on a temporary basis at its newly approved Houston location until the Venezuelan government makes requests for visas for permanent replacement staff."

The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions between the countries.

The United States in September expelled the Venezuelan ambassador and sanctioned two Venezuelan officials close to President Hugo Chavez for aiding Colombian FARC rebels. The US expulsion was in response to similar moves by Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales, who earlier ordered the US envoys out of their countries.