The incoming chairman of the Western Hemisphere subcomittee at the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Thursday evening that the Obama administration revocation of the Venezuelan envoy's visas should be followed by sanctions.
“The revocation of visas for Venezuela’s envoy sets the stage for diplomatic isolation that must be followed up with the economic sanctions Venezuela has earned because of its support for terrorist groups such as the FARC, ELN, ETA and the IRGC Qods forces," Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) said in a statement.
"It’s far past time for the Administration to name Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism once and for all,” he added.
Washington this week revoked the visas for Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez while Alvarez was out of the country. It was retaliation for Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez's rejection of Larry Palmer, who is awaiting Senate confirmation as U.S. ambassador to Venezuela.
Palmer had angered Chavez with his answers to Sen. Richard Lugar's (R-Ind.) questions for the record on his nomination, which included concerns about Venezuela's ties to FARC rebels in Colombia.
"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."
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley on Wednesday called the visa revocation "appropriate, proportional and reciprocal action."
The State Department maintains, though, that it's in the "national interest" to have an ambassador in Caracas.
Mack said the standoff, which comes as Chavez granted himself the power to rule by decree for the next 18 months, should present an opportunity for Washington to crack down further on the regime.
“The United States has looked the other way for far too long as Hugo Chavez destroyed democratic institutions and prosperity in his country," Mack said. "Chavez continues to threaten the security of the entire region through his support of drug trafficking and terrorist organizations."