The United States expelled three Venezuelan diplomats in response to a similar move by President Nicolas Maduro who threw out three American embassy staff members accused of inciting violence in protests that have so far killed at least 13 people.
Thousands of demonstrators, including students have taking to the streets of the capital, Caracas, to protest Maduro’s policies, the increased crime rates, inflation, lack of basic foods, and what they see as the strong-handed suppression of the protests.
Maduro has continued the policies of the late Hugo Chavez, who was one of the biggest United States antagonists during his rule between 1999 and the year he died, 2013.
First Secretary Ignacio Luis Cajal Avalos, First Secretary Victor Manuel Pisani Azpurua, and Second Secretary Marcos Jose Garcia Figueredo of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. were declared personae non gratae and “have been allowed 48 hours to leave the United States.”
The action doesn’t come as a surprise following Venezuela’s expulsion of United States Vice Consuls Breeann Marie McCusker, Jeffrey Gordon Elsen, and Kristofer Lee Clark on February 17, a State Department source which did not wish to be identified said.
President Maduro stated that the American embassy staff members helped organize and fund the anti-government protests that have taken over the capital in recent days. The United States denies the accusations.
— GlobalPost (@GlobalPost) February 25, 2014
People on both sides of Venezuela’s deadly protests explain the troubles in their country: http://t.co/K7FdqTf4FW pic.twitter.com/cv0OyugaVZ
— RYOT NEWS (@RYOTnews) February 26, 2014
— CNN Photos (@CNNPhotos) February 21, 2014
Relations between the two countries have been deteriorating ever since Chavez took power and their diplomatic missions have seen a decreased number of members, following the withdrawal of both ambassadors in 2010.
The protests in Venezuela have extended beyond the capital where demonstrators have used any and all items to block streets to show their displeasure, even as Maduro calls for dialogue.
Moreover, the movement has gone beyond just students and regular citizens armed with pots and pans have joined the demonstrators all across the country.
Maduro called for a peace conference to take place on Wednesday with governors, mayors, and lawmakers who would sign a peace deal renouncing violence.
It is unclear if the calls from Maduro will be heard, but the protesters are literally paralyzing several major cities across Venezuela.
Maduro supporters are accusing the United States of backing the protesters, who according to them attempted a coup to overthrow the government.
[Images Via Scrape TV]