US expels two Venezuelan diplomats in retaliatory move

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Washington, May 24 (IANS) The US has expelled two Venezuelan diplomats, ordering them to leave the country within 48 hours, in a retaliatory move against Caracas’s decision to remove two American diplomats, the media reported.

The Venezuelan Charge d’Affaires in Washington D.C., Carlos Ron Ramirez, and the deputy consul general of the Venezuelan consulate in Houston were declared personae non grata on Wednesday by the State Department, reports Efe news.

According to a department statement, the decision was made in response to Venezuela’s decision to oust the US Charge d’Affaires in Caracas, Todd Robinson, and his second in command, head of political affairs Brian Naranjo.

Both Ramirez and Robinson were the most senior diplomats representing their respective diplomatic missions in Washington D.C. and Caracas as both countries have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010.

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On Tuesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced the expulsion of the two diplomats during an event in which he was proclaimed winner of the recent presidential elections in Venezuela, and accused Robinson of acting as a “conspirator” in his country.

The State Department said in the statement that “the accusations behind the Maduro regime’s decision are unjustified”.

It also pointed out that the diplomats expelled by Caracas “have carried out their official duties responsibly and consistent with diplomatic practice and applicable provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations”.

“We reject any suggestion to the contrary,” the statement added.

Earlier on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had warned the Maduro administration on Wednesday that Washington would respond “proportionately” to Venezuela’s expulsion of its diplomats.

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