Mon, Nov 10, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Venezuelan officials told to pack up and leave US

‘INVITED’The Venezuelan consulate requested in August to move to another location in Houston. Before approval could be granted, the office had already moved

AP , WASHINGTON

The US State Department was asking officials at the Venezuelan consulate in Houston to leave the country after the South American government moved its offices in that city before receiving permission.

The Venezuelan officials were being asked to depart because the unauthorized move violated international protocol, Nicole Thompson, a State Department spokeswoman, said on Saturday. She said one consular officer was being allowed to remain temporarily in Houston so that Venezuela can continue to operate a consulate until a permanent location is approved.

The dispute stems from the Venezuelan consulate’s request in August to move to another Houston location. Before the State Department issued its approval, US officials learned the consulate had already leased space and began operations at the new location.

The State Department ordered Venezuela on Oct. 2 to cease operations and when it had not, the US revoked their privileges on Oct. 31.

Consulate staff and officials were then “invited to depart the United States,” Thompson said.

“Until Venezuela makes its request ... we will continue to work with them to resolve staffing,” she said.

The Houston Chronicle reported on Saturday that the consular office was locked on Friday and a notice taped in the window said it would remain closed until further notice for reasons “beyond our control.” A similar notice was posted on the consulate Web site on Saturday.

Thompson said she did not have information on how many people were being asked to leave the US or when.

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