President Trump responded on Monday with an executive order limiting Venezuela’s ability to sell state assets
May 23, 2018 (DESPARDES) — Re-elected Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday ordered the expulsion of two top U.S. diplomats in Caracas, accusing them of a ‘conspiracy’ that was denied by the US State Department.
Maduro made the announcement as his victory in Sunday’s vote was being proclaimed officially.
The vote was marred by an opposition boycott and allegations of fraud, which led the US to tighten sanctions.
Even before the election took place, the US, Canada, the EU and a dozen Latin American countries said they would not recognize the results.
Now Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Panama and Peru are among those scaling back their diplomatic relations with Caracas.
However, Russia, El Salvador, Cuba and China congratulated President Maduro on his election win.
Maduro, the 55-year-old successor to Hugo Chavez, won re-election easily, amid reports of polling being riddled with irregularities, from the barring of two popular opposition rivals to the offering of a government “prize” to voters.
President Trump responded on Monday with an executive order limiting Venezuela’s ability to sell state assets.
Accusing U.S. charge d’affaires Todd Robinson of being involved in “a military conspiracy,” Maduro ordered him and another senior diplomat, Brian Naranjo, to leave within 48 hours.
He gave no details of the accusations, but said the U.S. Embassy had been meddling in military, economic and political issues, and vowed to present evidence shortly.
“Neither with conspiracies nor with sanctions will you hold Venezuela back,” Maduro said, at an event in downtown Caracas at the headquarters of the election board.
The U.S. State Department rejected Maduro’s “false allegations” against the two diplomats, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said at a news briefing in Washington.
Robinson gave a brief speech at a public appearance on Tuesday afternoon in Venezuela’s western city of Merida.
“We energetically reject the accusations against me and against Brian Naranjo,” said Robinson, in comments streamed live on Facebook by local media.
“This was my first visit to Merida, but it will not be my last,” added Robinson, who assumed the charge d’affaires role in December.
The US has not had a serving ambassador in Venezuela for eight years and Mr Robinson is its most senior representative.
Venezuela is suffering from food shortages stemming from its economic crisis and voter turnout was low on Sunday.
The Trump administration has also tried to convince China and Russia to stop issuing new credit to Venezuela, U.S. officials told reporters on Monday. The two countries have provided billions of dollars in funding for Venezuela in recent years.
But they appeared unlikely to heed the U.S. warnings. Beijing said on Tuesday it believed the United States and Venezuela should resolve their differences via talks, while Moscow said it would not comply with the sanctions.
“Neither with conspiracies nor with sanctions will you hold Venezuela back,” Mr Maduro said while Speaking at an event at the election board — he promised to present evidence that the US embassy had been engaged in a military, economic and political conspiracy.
In a statement on Tuesday, Venezuela’s foreign ministry said the sanctions violated international law and blamed the U.S. “blockade” of the country for “blocking the population’s access to basic goods.”