Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shuns U.S. diplomat

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday went through with his threat to reject the diplomat nominated by President Barack Obama to be the U.S. ambassador to Caracas.

Chavez said he won't accept Larry Palmer as envoy because Palmer recently suggested morale is low in Venezuela's military and raised concerns about Colombian rebels finding refuge in Venezuela.

There was no immediate reaction from Washington on Chavez's announcement. Palmer's ambassadorship has not been confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

"Obama, how do you expect me to accept this gentleman as ambassador?" Chavez said. "He disqualified himself, he cannot come as ambassador."

As part of his Senate confirmation process, Palmer mentioned Colombia's accusations that Chavez has ignored the presence of Colombian rebel camps inside Venezuela, saying Chavez has an obligation to investigate.

Chavez broke off relations with Colombia last month after the government of former President Alvaro Uribe released evidence purportedly showing that Colombian rebels receive refuge inside Venezuela. Chavez vehemently denies that is true.

Uribe was succeeded as Colombia's president Sunday by Juan Manuel Santos, who has taken a more conciliatory tone with Venezuela. The countries' foreign ministers announced that their two presidents will meet in Bogota on Tuesday as a first step toward restoring diplomatic relations.

Palmer, who has served as ambassador in Honduras and charge d'affaires in Ecuador, was tapped by Obama's administration to try to manage Washington's difficult relationship with Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shuns U.S. diplomat 08/08/10 [Last modified: Sunday, August 8, 2010 10:35pm]

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