The United States ordered three Venezuelan diplomats expelled from the country in response to a similar measure last week by Caracas authorities, a State Department official told Efe on Tuesday.
First Secretary Ignacio Luis Cajal Avalos, First Secretary Victor Manuel Pisani Azpurua, and Second Secretary Marcos Jose Garcia Figueredo of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington were declared personae non gratae and "have been allowed 48 hours to leave the United States."
The measure was taken in response to Venezuela's Feb. 17 expulsion of U.S. Vice Consuls Breeann Marie McCusker, Jeffrey Gordon Elsen and Kristofer Lee Clark, a State Department source told Efe while requesting anonymity.
President Nicolas Maduro's administration said diplomats at the U.S. Embassy played a role in organizing and funding anti-government demonstrations that have left 13 people dead since Feb. 12.
Washington rejects the accusation.
Venezuela and the United States withdrew their ambassadors in 2010 and since then, both diplomatic missions have been losing representation due to previous tit-for-tat expulsions amid growing bilateral tensions.
Relations between the United States and Venezuela have remained at the level of charge d'affaires since late 2010, when Caracas rejected the proposed U.S. ambassador and Washington retaliated by expelling the Venezuelan envoy.
The State Department announcement comes the same day that Maduro was expected to name his choice for Venezuela's next ambassador to the United States.
Caracas needs an envoy in the United States to counteract disinformation about Venezuela, the leftist president said Monday. EFE