The State Department on Jan. 9 officially expelled a Venezuelan consul general over an alleged plot involving Venezuela, Iran and Cuba to launch a cyber-attack against Washington. The department said it gave Livia Acosta Noguera, Venezuela’s consul general in Miami, 24 hours to leave the United States after declaring her persona non grata—the most serious form of censure a country can apply to a foreign diplomat. The move comes after recent claims on the US-based Spanish-language TV network Univision that Acosta was involved in plans three years ago, with a group of diplomats based in Mexico to attack the computer systems of the White House, FBI, CIA, Pentagon, National Security Agency and several nuclear power plants. The report also claimed Acosta was seeking the aid of hackers to uncover incriminating information on US political figures, including Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Iran’s former ambassador to Mexico, Mohammad Hassan Ghadir, appeared on Univision last month to deny the accusations. The network tied Acosta to Venezuela’s espionage agency, the Bolivarian Intelligence Service.
The expulsion announcement came the same day Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Caracas for a tour of Latin America’s left-leaning capitals. Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez is to travel with Ahmadinejad to Nicaragua this week to attend the inauguration of President Daniel Ortega. The Iranian leader is also to visit Cuba and Ecuador. (UPI, Univision, Jan. 9)