Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela's Chavez and US clash over future ambassador

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (17 Dec 2010)
President Chavez says Mr Palmer should be prevented from entering Venezuela

Venezuela has reiterated its opposition to the man likely to become the next US ambassador to the country.

The row over diplomat Larry Palmer dates back to August, when he angered Caracas with critical remarks he made about the government.

The US State Department says that if he is confirmed by the Senate, Mr Palmer will travel to Venezuela soon.

President Hugo Chavez says he should be detained and sent home if he tries to enter Venezuela.

In August, during his confirmation process, Mr Palmer suggested to a US senator that morale was low in Venezuela's military.

He also expressed concern about Colombian rebels finding refuge in Venezuela, suggesting there were ties between the rebels and the government.

"He went ahead and said whatever he felt like saying, disrespecting Venezuela," Mr Chavez said in a televised speech. "How is he going to be ambassador? He disqualified himself."

He told his foreign minister to seize Mr Palmer if he tried to fly into Caracas international airport.

"Give Mr Palmer a coffee from me, and then bye-bye. He cannot, he cannot enter the country."

Mr Chavez was speaking a day after the Venezuelan parliament voted to allow him to rule by decree for 18 months, without needing the support of congress.

The move has been denounced by his critics in Venezuela, and the US State Department.

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