Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro has called upon the people to defend the Revolution. Anti-government protests have taken place inside the country., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Venezuela expels 3 US diplomats
February 18, 2014
CARACAS. — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday accused Washington of plotting with anti-government protesters and expelled three US diplomats in retaliation. Maduro’s order came on the same day that fugitive opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez re-appeared and called for a mass rally today and challenged the government to arrest him at the event.
Nearly two weeks of anti-government protests spearheaded by students have become the biggest challenge to Venezuela’s socialist rulers since the death of long-time leader Hugo Chavez in 2013.
“I have ordered the foreign ministry to proceed with declaring those three consular officials persona non grata and expelling them from the country. Let them go conspire in Washington!” Maduro said in a nationally broadcast address.
Maduro said the US diplomats, who have not been named, had met with students involved in anti-government protests under the pretence of offering them “visas to the United States.”
In late September Maduro kicked out three other US diplomats, including the charge d’affairs, Kelly Keiderling, on accusations of conspiring with government opponents.
The two countries have had no ambassadors since 2010.
A foreign ministry statement also said Maduro’s government “flatly rejects” remarks by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday voicing alarm at the violence during the marches and criticizing the arrest of protesters.
Kerry’s statement is “yet another manoeuvre” by Washington to “legitimise attempts to destabilise the Venezuelan democracy unleashed by violent groups in recent days,” the ministry said.
During a failed two-day coup against Maduro’s predecessor in 2002, the United States showed support for an interim leader — and not staunch US critic Chavez, who had been elected — a move that undermined US credibility in the region.
With supporters and opponents of Maduro’s leftist government staging rival rallies in Caracas, following protests over soaring inflation and basic goods shortages, Kerry had voiced alarm Saturday at the “senseless violence” that has broken out.
He said he was particularly concerned over an arrest warrant issued for opposition leader Lopez.