Venezuela expels two US officials accused of plotting overthrow

Venezuela on Tuesday expelled two U.S. officials accused of being involved in a coup against the government.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro made the accusations in a national broadcast where he said ailing President Hugo Chavez, a U.S. foe, had been poisoned. He went on to accuse Air Force attaché David Del Monaco of meeting with military officers and plotting to overthrow the government and said Deblin Costal, another U.S. official, was also being expelled.

“The enemies of the nation,” Maduro said, “both here and abroad, have decided to activate their plans to destabilize Venezuelan democracy” while Chavez is ailing. The fiery comments come one day after Information Minister Ernesto Villegas announced that Chavez, who has cancer, was battling a new infection and had trouble breathing.

The White House had no immediate comment.

“I have no reaction to the charge that you've just repeated,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said at his press briefing. “I can tell you that we continue to seek a functional and productive relationship with Venezuela, and we remain open to a dialogue with Venezuela on a range of issues of mutual understanding, including counternarcotics, counterterrorism, and the commercial relationship between the two countries, including energy. But for more on that, I think we'll have to wait and see if there's a reaction that might come from the State Department.”

The State Department had no immediate comment.