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State Department Expresses Confidence in US Ambassador After Threats by Chavez

The U.S. State Department has expressed continued confidence in U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield.

The comments come one day after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he may ask the U.S. envoy to leave after the diplomat made remarks about Chavez's nationalization plans.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told VOA Friday that such threats are an often-used tactic by the Venezuelan government to distract attention from other problems. He said Brownfield will continue doing his work as the U.S. representative in Caracas.

Ambassador Brownfield told the media in Caracas Thursday that Mr. Chavez's planned state takeover of telecommunications firm CANTV should be done in a legal and transparent way, and its owners and investors should be fairly compensated.

Mr. Chavez has already said he will not offer shareholders market value after the takeover of CANTV is complete. U.S.-based telecommunications giant Verizon holds a large share of CANTV.

The president accused Brownfield of meddling in Venezuela's internal affairs, and warned him that he could be considered "persona non grata" and asked to leave the country.

Washington has accused the Venezuelan president of becoming increasingly authoritarian and being a destabilizing force in the region. Mr. Chavez is a fierce critic of the United States, and has become a close ally of Cuban President Fidel Castro.