Washington: The United States on Tuesday rejected Venezuela's allegations of a conspiracy, saying it was "absurd" to assert Washington was somehow behind President Hugo Chavez's cancer.
Issuing statements before Chavez's death was announced, the Pentagon confirmed the expulsion of two Air Force officers from the US embassy in Caracas while the State Department condemned allegations of a plot to undermine Venezuela.
"We completely reject the Venezuelan government's claim that the United States is involved in any type of conspiracy to destabilize the Venezuelan government," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement.
"An assertion that the United States was somehow involved in causing President Chavez's illness is absurd, and we definitively reject it," he said.
Despite deep differences between the two governments, the United States had sought a more productive relationship, he said, but the "fallacious assertion" against Washington showed Caracas was "not interested in an improved relationship."
He added that the United States had the option of taking retaliatory actions against Venezuelan diplomats under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.
The expulsions were announced after Vice President Nicolas Maduro had accused the country's "historic enemies" of causing Chavez's cancer.
Maduro alleged the expelled US military officers had been seeking out active Venezuelan military officials to obtain information about the armed forces and propose "destabilization projects."
A tearful Maduro later announced Chavez's death on television.
Pentagon officials said the US embassy had posted military attaches in Caracas as Washington had previously run security cooperation programs with Venezuela -- before relations soured under Chavez's rule.
The Pentagon identified the two expelled Air Force officers as David Delmonaco and Devlin Kostal. Earlier statements gave a different spelling of Delmonaco's name.
Story first published:
March 06, 2013 10:36 IST