September 12, 2008 / 1:34 PM / 9 years ago

U.S. plans to expel Venezuelan envoy, official says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will expel Venezuela’s ambassador in Washington to retaliate for the oil-exporting Latin American nation’s decision to oust the U.S. envoy in Caracas, a U.S. official said on Friday.

“The plan is to kick him out,” said the U.S. official, who asked not to be identified.

In an escalating diplomatic battle between Washington and Latin America’s left-wing leaders, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez expelled the American ambassador on Thursday, a day after Bolivia asked the U.S. envoy in La Paz to leave.

Bolivia accused the U.S. ambassador of instigating violent protests in the poor Andean nation, a charge the U.S. State Department dismissed as baseless.

It was unclear whether the United States would succeed in expelling the Venezuelan ambassador. Chavez on Thursday said he was recalling the envoy, who could be pulled out before being formally notified that he was “persona non grata” by the U.S. State Department.

Chavez on Thursday repeated a threat he has often made to cut off Venezuela’s oil supply to the United States, its biggest customer. Venezuela has some of the largest reserves outside the Middle East and, despite Chavez’s clashes with the Bush administration, is a major supplier to the United States.

Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Doina Chiacu

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