Venezuelan president expels top US diplomat

Venezuela’s president said Tuesday that he would expel Todd Robinson the U.S. chief of mission and another U.S. official

Venezuela’s president said Tuesday that he would expel Todd Robinson the U.S. chief of mission and another U.S. official

President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday ordered the expulsion of two top USA diplomats in Caracas in retaliation for a new round of sanctions over Venezuela's widely-condemned election, accusing them of a "conspiracy" that was denied by the State Department.

The Venezuelan president declared U.S. charge d'affaires Todd Robinson and deputy head of mission Brian Naranjo "persona non grata". It called Washington's move as part of "a systematic campaign of aggression" by U.S. administration and said they had no legal base.

The order came one day after Maduro won a presidential election that many consider to have been fraudulent.

Hardly anyone, of course, thinks Maduro has brought "progress and prosperity" to his country, which in recent years has seen hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages, and millions of desperate Venezuelans fleeing to other countries.

The move was announced by Maduro in a televised speech moments after he was officially declared as the victor of Sunday's election.

The U.S. Mission to the UN Twitter account tweeted that Venezuela's elections "an insult to democracy".

However, Russia, El Salvador, Cuba and China congratulated President Maduro on his election win. Sanctions also give support to a pro-Maduro narrative that the U.S.is directly responsible for most of Venezuela's problems. Robinson said he and his deputy "strongly reject the accusations".

"Venezuela once again condemns the systematic campaign of aggression and hostility by the USA regime to punish the Venezuelan people for exercising their right to vote", the ministry said in a statement.

The U.S. State Department rejected Maduro's "false allegations" against the two diplomats, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said at a news briefing in Washington. He has also served in the Dominican Republic, Italy, Vatican City and Colombia. He earned a reputation for speaking out as ambassador to Guatemala and several times faced calls there for his expulsion.

He has been similarly provocative in his short stay in Caracas.

The phone call was made late Tuesday.

Robinson, a career diplomat, took over the embassy in Caracas in September 2017.

An oil embargo could take the form of blocking the sale of Venezuelan oil to the United States or preventing Venezuela from purchasing the lighter U.S. oil that it needs to mix with it heavier crude, experts have said.

Speaking at his confirmation ceremony in Caracas, Maduro declared the senior-most USA official at the embassy, Todd Robinson, to be "Persona Non Grata", along with the chief of the embassy's political section, Brian Naranjo.

Last month, Maduro even welcomed Robinson to the presidential palace for a private meeting with visiting U.S. Sen.

Washington and Caracas have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010.

"This money belongs to the Venezuelan people", Trump said.

"They're looking to blame someone", said Duddy, now director of Duke University's Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

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