Obama to Chavez: Pound sand

Well, well, well.  Do we detect a hint of sulfur in Barack Obama’s reaction to Hugo Chavez today?  President Obama has kicked the Venezuelan ambassador out of the US in retaliation for the rejection of Obama’s choice of ambassador to Venezuela:

Washington has revoked the visa of the Venezuelan ambassador to the US, the US state department has said.

The move comes amid a diplomatic dispute between the two countries over President Barack Obama’s choice of ambassador to Caracas, Larry Palmer. …

The US move in effect expels Venezuelan envoy Bernardo Alvarez Herrera.

Alvarez Herrera isn’t in the US at the moment, which means Obama effectively locked him out of the country.  Venezuelan officials in Caracas confirmed the revocation on Twitter this morning.  That leaves both countries without an official representative in the respective capitals.

Obama essentially called Chavez’ bluff with strictly reciprocal action.  Chavez dared him to cut diplomatic ties altogether, but Obama didn’t go that far.  Officially, diplomatic ties remain in place and both embassies remain in operation.  If Chavez wants to cut diplomatic ties, he’ll have to do it himself.

Undoubtedly, Chavez will escalate his war of words against Obama and the US, but he’d better be careful.  The US is the major consumer of Venezuelan oil, the only real source of income Chavez has.  We can find our own oil — if Obama lets us — but Chavez may find it more difficult to unload his highly sulfuric crude elsewhere.  The US has the best ability to refine it, and his new allies in Iran and Russia are net oil exporters, not importers.  If Chavez manages to entirely kill the oil industry, which is the long-term direction he’s taking anyway, the shortages and poverty it will cause will eventually find him fleeing Venezuela for asylum in Tehran or Moscow, or perhaps on the wrong end of a military coup.