Venezuelan President Expels Top US Diplomat For Alleged Conspiracy

FILE - In this March 14, 2018 file photo, United States Chargé d'Affaires Todd Robinson attends the inauguration of a culture center that will facilitate study abroad opportunities for Venezuelan youths, in Lecheria... FILE - In this March 14, 2018 file photo, United States Chargé d'Affaires Todd Robinson attends the inauguration of a culture center that will facilitate study abroad opportunities for Venezuelan youths, in Lecheria, Venezuela. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 that he is expelling Robinson, the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela and his deputy for allegedly conspiring against his government. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File) MORE LESS
|
May 22, 2018 2:17 p.m.

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday said he was expelling the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela and his deputy for allegedly conspiring against his government and trying to sabotage the country’s recent presidential election.

“The empire doesn’t dominate us here,” Maduro said in a televised address, giving charge d’affaires Todd Robinson and his deputy Brian Naranjo 48 hours to leave the country. “We’ve had enough of your conspiring.”

Tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela have mounted following Maduro’s victory in presidential elections on Sunday, a vote the White House has branded a “sham.”

Maduro said in his speech that Robinson and Naranjo, whom he referred to as the head of the CIA in Venezuela, both personally pressured several anti-government presidential aspirants not to compete in the race. Most opposition parties decided to boycott after officials blocked their most popular leaders from competing.

Maduro also accused the Trump administration, which slapped new sanctions on his government Monday, of seeking to escalate “aggressions” against the Venezuelan people.

“The dominant and decisive reason why the opposition progressively withdrew from the elections was the decision by the extremist U.S. government to not validate or legitimize a presidential election that they knew fully was going to be won in any scenario by the candidate of Nicolas Maduro,” the president said.

Robinson is a career diplomat who previously served as ambassador to Guatemala. Venezuela and the U.S. haven’t exchanged ambassadors since 2010.

There was no immediate reaction from Robinson or the U.S. Embassy in Caracas.

In his long diplomatic career, Robinson has worked in Colombia, Bolivia, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. He earned a reputation for speaking out as ambassador to Guatemala and several times faced calls for his expulsion.

He’s been similarly provocative during his short stay in Caracas.

Days after landing in Caracas last December, he posed for pictures next to a statue of independence hero Simon Bolivar in a pro-government plaza and called Maduro’s constitutional assembly “illegitimate.”

He’s also made several forceful calls for the release of U.S. citizen Joshua Holt, who has been jailed for more than two years, without a trial, on weapons charges. Last week, he rushed with cameras in tow to the foreign ministry to demand information about Holt after the Utah native appeared in a video from jail saying his life had been threatened during a prison riot.

Robinson said nobody in the Venezuelan government would met with him, but socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello denied the snub, accusing him of staging a “show”

Venezuela and the U.S. haven’t exchanged ambassadors since 2010, so Robinson, while preserving his ambassadorial rank, was serving as chief of mission at the hilltop embassy in Caracas. Naranjo, his deputy, is one of the most senior State Department officials working on Venezuela, having served previously in Caracas when the late Hugo Chavez first ran for president in 1998.

Introducing
The TPM Journalism Fund: A New Way To Support TPM
We're launching the TPM Journalism Fund as an additional way for readers and members to support TPM. Every dollar contributed goes toward:
  • -Hiring More Journalists
  • -Providing free memberships to those who cannot afford them
  • -Supporting independent, non-corporate journalism
Are you experiencing financial hardship?
Apply for a free community-supported membership
Comments
advertisement
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer:
SPECIAL DEAL FOR PAST TPM MEMBERS
40% OFF AN ANNUAL PRIME MEMBERSHIP
REJOIN FOR JUST $30