Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, issued the following statement regarding Venezuela's action to expel a U.S. diplomat. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"First, Chavez expeled our DEA in 2005, then expeled our U.S. Ambassador in 2008, and now expels a U.S. diplomat at our embassy in Venezuela. These provocative actions cannot go without severe repercussions and I call on the Department of State to reciprocate this action by expelling the highest ranking Venezuelan official at its embassy in Washington, DC.
"As Chavez's health condition worsens and his hold on power becomes more uncertain, the leaders in Venezuela continue to take severe steps to undermine the democratic process and intimidate the Venezuelan people. The people of Venezuela have for too long endured the trampling of their freedom and democracy by Chávez and his cronies who continue to disregard the Constitution. Chávez has anointed Nicolás Maduro as his successor, but the authoritarian regime cannot be allowed to simply shift control from one despot to another in an effort to maintain its iron grip over the Venezuelan people.
The State Department must take swift action and expel Venezuela's diplomat in Washington, DC and stop cozying up with the Chavez propaganda machine that only wishes to undermine democracy in the region. This is an opportunity for the U.S. and responsible nations to demonstrate a commitment to restoring true democracy to Venezuela, and I hope the opportunity isn't missed."