CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela's government has decided to expel Paraguay's remaining diplomats from the country, the top envoy at the Paraguayan Embassy said Wednesday.
Charge d'affaires Victor Casartelli said that he and three other Paraguayan diplomats in Caracas were told by Venezuela's Foreign Ministry to leave within three days.
Venezuelan government officials did not respond to calls seeking comment about the matter. Casartelli said that he received a call Tuesday from the Foreign Ministry informing him of the decision and that he met Wednesday with Venezuelan officials who confirmed that the four should go.
The expulsion of Paraguay's diplomats follows a bitter dispute between the countries that began in June with the congressional impeachment and ouster of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
In July, the two governments withdrew their ambassadors amid rising tensions over Lugo's removal. Chavez later said he had ordered his country's military attaches to leave Paraguay, citing threats against diplomats.
Casartelli said he was told by Venezuelan officials that when their government withdrew its diplomats, "they were waiting for Paraguay to do the same thing with us."
Since months passed and Paraguay didn't follow suit, Venezuelan officials decided to expel the remaining diplomats, Casartelli said. He said in a phone interview that he and the other three diplomats had made plans to leave this week.
One Paraguayan Embassy employee who is not a diplomat will be allowed to remain to perform consular duties, Casartelli said.
In Paraguay, Foreign Minister Jose Felix Fernandez said in remarks broadcast by a local radio station that "Venezuela's government has a peculiar way of facing its international relations, but I won't judge it."
"Paraguay has another style for its diplomatic relations," Fernandez said.
Associated Press writer Pedro Servin in Asuncion, Paraguay, contributed to this report.