On Tuesday, Venezuela’s vice president accused the air attaché and assistant air attaché of trying to collude with the country’s military to try to destabilize the country – a claim the State Department rejects.
His comments came shortly before it was officially announced that President Hugo Chavez had died. Elections for a new president are expected to take place in 30 days.
Venezuela’s decision to expel the two Air Force officers signifies that the current government is not interested in better relationships with the US at the moment, said a U.S. official, who did not want to be identified.
“It’s our belief that consistent with the behavior of the Bolivarian government in the past, they believe it is somehow to their advantage to demonize the United States and to exacerbate friction between our two countries,” the official said. “The expulsion of these two attaches is consistent with that electoral strategy.”
Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson has expressed sympathies to Chavez’ friends and family on behalf of the US.
“As a nation, Venezuela will face challenges as it moves forward at this difficult moment in its history,” Jacobson said in a statement. “We stand ready to support Venezuela during this period. Part of moving forward will be the election of a new president, which should be carried out in accordance with Venezuela’s commitments to the hemisphere’s high democratic standards. The United States remains a longstanding friend of the Venezuelan people and we continue to support their aspirations for peace, security, and prosperity.”