Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez attends a welcoming ceremony for himself in Tehran, Iran on April 2, 2009. (UPI Photo/Mohammad Kheirkhah) | License Photo
CARACAS, Venezuela, July 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. ambassador to Venezuela has resumed his post in Caracas nine months after he was expelled.
Ambassador Patrick Duddy flew to Venezuela Wednesday and was expected to be on hand for an embassy-hosted celebration of the U.S. Fourth of July holiday this weekend, the embassy said.
The ambassador's return comes about a week after Venezuelan Ambassador to the United States Bernardo Alvarez resumed his duties in Washington. Both ambassadors had been declared persona non grata last September by their host countries.
The U.S. State Department said Monday an exchange of notes marked the rescinding of the persona non grata declarations.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, during a briefing, said: "With (Duddy's) return, full diplomatic representation will resume. This important step will help advance U.S. interests by improving bilateral communication and enhancing our outreach to the Venezuelan people."
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro issued a statement saying, "We have a very clear position regarding this subject and we are prepared to move forward."
This diplomatic flap between Venezuela and the United States had its genesis in Bolivia. On Sept. 10, 2008, Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, claiming the ambassador was causing dissent in Bolivia.
"The one who conspires against democracy and above all seeks the division of Bolivia is the ambassador of the United States," Morales said in a speech.
The United States denied the allegations, but Goldberg has yet to return to Bolivia.
Morales is a longtime strong ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who showed his support by ordering Duddy out of his country the following day.
Chavez said outright that the move was to back Morales, but he also said in a television speech that there was a plot supported by U.S. interests to overthrow him.
"It's the empire that's behind this," he said. "They go around looking for a way to stop our revolution and, with it, to strike all the processes of change that are occurring in our Americas, in the Caribbean, in Central America."
Chavez had a very hostile stance against U.S. President George Bush but has been friendlier with President Barack Obama. The two met with handshakes at the Summit of the Americas in April in Trinidad and Tobago. It was during diplomatic meetings on the sidelines of the summit that a possible restoration of the ambassadors was broached.
Duddy is a career employee of the Senior Foreign Service. He served in embassies in Chile, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Panama ahead of his posting in Caracas on Aug. 6, 2007.
During Duddy's absence from Caracas, Charge d'Affaires John Caulfield was in charge of the U.S. Embassy.