Caracas (AFP) – The United States has expelled Venezuela's charge d'affaires in Washington and two other diplomats in reprisal for the expulsion of three American diplomats from Caracas, both countries said.
The tit-for-tat move came a day after the expulsion of the Americans, accused of plotting acts of sabotage against the government, the Foreign Ministry in Caracas said.
It called the American move unjustified, saying the Venezuelan diplomats had not been meeting with people opposed to President Barack Obama.
In ejecting the Americans, including charge d'affaire Kelly Keiderling, Venezuela had said she and two others had met with the Venezuelan far right -- the government's term for the opposition -- to finance President Nicolas Maduro's opponents and "encourage actions to sabotage the power system and the economy.
In Washington, a State Department official confirmed the Venezuelan charge d'affaires Calixto Ortega Rios and the other two had been advised Monday they had 48 hours to leave the United States.
"It is regrettable that the Venezuelan government has again decided to expel U.S. diplomatic officials based on groundless allegations, which require reciprocal action," the official said.
"It is counterproductive to the interests of both our countries and not a serious way for a country to conduct its foreign policy," the official.
The two countries -- at each other's throats politically but eager supplier and buyer of Venezuelan oil -- have not had ambassadors in each other's capitals since 2010.
President Nicolas Maduro is a firebrand anti-US populist in the mould of his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, who died in March of cancer.