U.S. to expel two Venezuelan diplomats in retaliation

WASHINGTON – The U.S. State Department on Wednesday announced a decision to expel two senior Venezuelan diplomats in the United States in retaliation of Venezuela’s earlier expulsion of two U.S. diplomats.

In an announcement, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that the expelled are the charge d’affaires of the Venezuelan embassy and the deputy consul general of the nation’s consulate in the midwestern U.S. city of Houston.

The two diplomats have been declared personae non grata, and directed to leave the United States within 48 hours.

Venezuela expels US envoy over fresh sanctions

The action was made to reciprocate the Venezuelan government’s “decision to declare the charge d’affaires and deputy chief of mission of the U.S. embassy in Caracas personae non gratae,” the statement read.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday ordered the expulsion of U.S. Charge D’affaires Todd Robinson and deputy head of mission, Brian Naranjo.

Asking the two diplomats to “leave the country in 48 hours,” Maduro said his decision was made “in protest and in defense of the dignity of the Venezuelan nation. Enough conspiracies.”

The decision also came after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting certain additional transactions with Venezuela.

Trump increases economic isolation of Venezuela after Maduro reelection

The order targeted the Maduro government by banning all transactions by U.S. persons or companies which would acquire any debt from the Venezuelan government.

Calling Maduro’s accusations “unjustified,” the State Department said the U.S. diplomats “have carried out their official duties responsibly and consistent with diplomatic practice and applicable provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Relations.”

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