US demands two Venezuelan diplomats leave within 48 hours: State Dept

Washington, DC, USAUpdated: May 24, 2018, 07:24 AM IST

Nicolas Maduro. Photograph:(Others)

The United States has ordered two top Venezuelan diplomats to leave its territory within 48 hours, the State Department said Wednesday, responding to Caracas's expulsion order against the top two US diplomats there.

"This action is to reciprocate the Maduro regime's decision to declare the Charge d'Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Caracas personae non grata," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

The Charge d'Affaires of the Venezuelan embassy and the Deputy Consul General of the Venezuelan consulate in Houston had likewise been declared personae non grata and were directed to leave within two days, she said.

Venezuela's move to expel US diplomats earlier this week followed a US tightening of sanctions over Nicolas Maduro's controversial presidential re-election.

Caracas had charged it was the victim of a "political and financial lynching" -- accusations Nauert branded "unjustified."

"Our Embassy officers have carried out their official duties responsibly and consistent with diplomatic practice," Nauert said.

"We reject any suggestion to the contrary."

Maduro announced the expulsions after being officially proclaimed the winner of Sunday's election in the South American nation mired in an acute economic crisis and facing growing international isolation.

The vote was boycotted by the main opposition parties and widely condemned by the international community, including the United States, which denounced it as a "sham."