US threatens retaliation as Venezuela expels diplomats

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

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WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — The United States threatened to retaliate against Venezuela on Tuesday after President Nicolas Maduro ordered the expulsion of America's top two diplomats in Caracas.

A State Department official told AFP that Washington had "not received notification from the Venezuelan government through diplomatic channels," but that if the expulsion goes ahead, "the United States may take appropriate reciprocal action."

Maduro declared US charge d'affaires Todd Robinson and deputy head of mission Brian Naranjo "personae non gratae" and gave them 48 hours to leave the country, angrily rejecting US economic sanctions imposed over his re-election in a nationally televised speech.

The Venezuelan leader announced the move after being officially proclaimed winner of Sunday's election, which was boycotted by the opposition and criticised by the international community.

The United States called it a "sham."

Maduro promised to present "evidence" that both diplomats were engaged in a political, military and economic "conspiracy."

The State Department said US authorities "reject completely the false allegations made by Maduro" against Robinson and Naranjo.

Washington and Caracas have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010, and relations between the two countries have been tense since the late leftist president Hugo Chavez, Maduro's mentor, assumed power in 1999.

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