Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. This photo released by Miraflores Press Office
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dared the U.S. to expel his ambassador in retaliation for his move to reject the U.S. envoy to the South American country.
On Wednesday, that's just what the Obama administration did.
Chavez issued his dare a day earlier, saying he would not allow the U.S. diplomat, Larry Palmer, to be ambassador because the U.S. official made what Chavez described as blatantly disrespectful remarks about Venezuela.
"If the government is going to expel our ambassador there, let them do it," Chavez said, adding, "If they're going to cut diplomatic relations, let them do it."
U.S. diplomats familiar with the situation said the decision to revoke Bernardo Alvarez Herrera's visa came after Chavez's decision to withdraw his approval of Palmer. The diplomats said Alvarez is currently not in the U.S.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Palmer, who is awaiting Senate confirmation, angered Chavez by suggesting earlier this year that morale is low in Venezuela's military and that he is concerned Colombian rebels are finding refuge in Venezuela.
Chavez, whose economy relies heavily on oil sales to the United States, has accused Palmer of dishonoring the Venezuelan government by expressing concerns on several sensitive subjects -- including 2008 accusations by the U.S. Treasury Department that three members of Chavez's inner circle helped Colombian rebels by supplying arms and aiding drug-trafficking operations.
"For an ambassador to come, he has to respect this homeland," Chavez said.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said late Wednesday that the U.S. has taken "appropriate, proportional and reciprocal action."