- Chavez says the expulsion of Livia Acosta was "unfair" and "immoral"
- He calls for an "administrative closing" of the consulate in Miami
- The move follows the U.S. decision to expel Acosta, consul general in Miami
- Last month, a group of American lawmakers called for an investigation of the diplomat
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday that he has decided to close the country's consulate in Miami after the United States expelled a Venezuelan diplomat in the same city.
Officials in his administration had recommended closing the consulate, Chavez said.
"So we'll close it. There won't be a consulate in Miami," the president told lawmakers during his annual address to the National Assembly.
"What we will do is an administrative closing while we study the situation," he said.
The president called the U.S. decision to expel Livia Acosta Noguera, who headed Venezuela's consulate in Miami since March, "unfair" and immoral." She had simply been doing her job, he said.
Acosta was declared persona non grata and told to leave the United States, a State Department spokesman said this week. He declined to comment on specific details behind the move.
Last month, a group of American lawmakers said they had "grave concerns" about Acosta. They called for an investigation after the Spanish-language TV channel Univision aired a documentary alleging that she was among a group of Venezuelan and Iranian diplomats who expressed interest in an offer from a group of Mexican hackers to infiltrate the websites of the White House, the FBI, the Pentagon and U.S. nuclear plants.
The evidence that the plot was real, according to Univision, includes secret recordings with diplomats who ask about what the hackers can do and promise to send information to their governments.
Univision interviewed a purported Mexican whistle-blower, a student at the National Autonomous University of Mexico named Juan Carlos Munoz Ledo. The student told Univision he was recruited by a leftist professor who wanted to wage cyberattacks on the United States and its allies.
Munoz told Univision he secretly recorded a meeting in 2008 with Acosta, who was then the cultural attache of the Venezuelan Embassy in Mexico. According to a recording Univision aired as part of its report, Acosta is heard saying that she can send the information gathered by the hackers straight to Chavez.
The Venezuelan president has called the report "lies."