CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez ordered the U.S. ambassador to leave Venezuela in 72 hours and said he was immediately withdrawing his ambassador from Washington.
Chavez said Thursday night that U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy is no longer welcome, just as his close ally Bolivia expelled the American envoy from La Paz a day earlier.
“They’re trying to do here what they were doing in Bolivia,” Chavez said, accusing Washington of trying to oust him.
“That’s enough … from you, Yankees,” he said during a televised rally, using an expletive.
The socialist leader said Venezuela’s ambassador to Washington, Bernardo Alvarez, would return to the U.S. “when there’s a new government in the United States.”
The move by Chavez brings relations with Washington to a new low and raises questions about whether the diplomatic clash could hurt trade. Venezuela is the fourth-largest oil supplier to the United States, and Chavez threatened on Thursday to cut off crude shipments “if there’s any aggression against Venezuela.”
He has made similar threats in the past, but the United States is his No. 1 oil client, and taking such an action would debilitate his government financially.