WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday it has ordered two Venezuelan diplomats to leave the United States within 48 hours, a move that follows Venezuela’s decision to expel two American diplomats.
The envoys are the chargé d’affaires of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy consul general of the Venezuelan consulate in Houston, the department said in a statement.
“This action is to reciprocate the Maduro regime’s decision to declare the Chargé d’Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas personae non grata,” the State Department said.
The expulsions marked the latest escalation of tensions between the two countries after the United States imposed new sanctions on the oil producer in response to what Washington decried as “sham” elections.
Venezuela’s leftist President Nicolas Maduro won re-election on Sunday by a wide margin but critics said the vote was not free or fair. The United States, the European Union and several Latin American countries said the election did not meet democratic standards.
U.S. President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Monday limiting Venezuela’s ability to sell state assets. Maduro responded on Tuesday by accusing the U.S. charge d’affaires, Todd Robinson, of being involved in a “military conspiracy,” and ordering him and another senior diplomat to leave the country within 48 hours.
The State Department and the two diplomats have denied Maduro’s allegations.
Maduro’s second six-year term will begin in January.
Reporting by Makini Brice and Eric Beech; Writing by Eric Walsh Editing by Frances Kerry, Toni Reinhold