Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced Monday the expulsion of the charge d’affaires and two other diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas for allegedly promoting sabotage.
The three diplomats have 48 hours to leave the country, Maduro said during a public event in the western state of Falcon.
“Out of Venezuela. Yankees go home. Enough of abuses against the dignity of the homeland,” the president said.
A subsequent government statement identified the affected diplomats as Kelly Keiderling, Elizabeth Hunderland and David Mutt.
The U.S. Embassy is awaiting official notification from the Venezuelan government, a source at the mission told Efe, while confirming that Keiderling is the charge d’affaires.
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.
Several U.S. Embassy diplomats have met with members of “the Venezuelan extreme right” and provided them with funds, Maduro said Monday.
The right-wing elements used that money to finance sabotage of Venezuela’s electric grid, the president said, alluding to several widespread power blackouts in the oil-rich Andean nation.
His government has “sufficient” evidence of the “hostile, illegal and interventionist attitude of several officials of the United States Embassy in Venezuela,” Maduro said.
“What would happen if a group of officials from the Venezuelan Embassy (in Washington) bring money ... to pay for sabotage of the gringo economic system?,” he asked rhetorically.
Ties between Caracas and Washington soured during the presidency of the late Hugo Chavez, a vehement critic of U.S. foreign policy who was Maduro’s mentor and predecessor.
An effort to normalize bilateral relations collapsed in July after Maduro’s government took umbrage at comments made by the U.S. representative to the United Nations, Samantha Power, during her Senate confirmation hearing.
Power told senators she would contest “the crackdown on civil society being carried out in countries like Cuba, Iran, Russia and Venezuela.”