A group of naturalized Venezuelan Americans launched a campaign Thursday to collect signatures asking U.S. State Department to seek the reopening of the Venezuelan consulate in Miami.
Journalist Lourdes Ubieta, one of the leaders of the initiative, said reinstatement of the consulate must be included in the dialogue between Washington and Caracas after the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
At a press conference in Doral, Ubieta said that in January State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed the U.S. government’s interest in improving relations with Venezuela.
“What we respectfully ask is that in the negotiations with the Venezuela government, the United States include the reopening of the Venezuelan consulate in Miami in the agenda,” Ubieta said at El Arepazo 2 restaurant in Doral.
Ubieta said that on Wednesday it had been 14 months to the day since the consulate was shuttered on Chávez’s orders after the Obama Administration declared the Venezuelan consul in Miami, Lidia Acosta, persona non grata.
Ubieta said that in a December 2011 Univision television documentary the diplomat was accused of participating in an alleged Iranian plot to launch cyber-attacks against U.S. government institutions.
“We have no evidence or knowledge that such threat actually existed,” Ubieta said. “But we do know that more than 300,000 Venezuelans have been left without consular services.”
The electoral coordinator of the Miami chapter of the Democratic Union Table, Beatriz Olavarría, said that closing affected thousands of Venezuelans who processed official paperwork at the consulate.
Olavarría said the closing of the consulate forced Venezuelans of the “Miami electoral circuit,” which encompasses Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, to travel to New Orleans, almost 900 miles from Miami, to vote in Venezuelan elections.
“That was abusive,” Olavarría said. “Not only has it affected electoral themes, but also elderly people who now have to pay a fee of $80 for a simple affidavit to be able to collect their pensions.