Venezuela Expels Top US Diplomats in Retaliation for Sanctions

Katie Ramirez
May 23, 2018

The order came one day after Maduro won a presidential election that many consider to have been fraudulent. Maduro claiming victory with about 5.8 million votes - 5 million more than his nearest challenger - many see the results as sadly predictable.

Accusing U.S. charge d'affaires Todd Robinson of being involved in "a military conspiracy", Maduro ordered him and another senior diplomat, Brian Naranjo, to leave within 48 hours.

Speaking at an event at the election board, he promised to present evidence that the USA embassy had been engaged in a military, economic and political conspiracy.

"Neither with conspiracies nor with sanctions will you hold Venezuela back", Maduro said, at an event in downtown Caracas at the headquarters of the election board.

"We completely reject the false allegations that have been made by the Maduro regime against our two colleagues", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday following the expulsion announcement, but had no further reaction.

In the speech on Tuesday, Mr. "We've had enough of your conspiring".

"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 country's foreign ministry said in a statement obtained by the news agency.

FILE - In this March 14, 2018 file photo, United States Chargé d'Affaires Todd Robinson attends the inauguration of a culture center that will facilitate study overseas opportunities for Venezuelan youths, in Lecheria, Venezuela. "If the Venezuelan authorities manage to take some retaliatory steps to oppose economic blackmail and pressure, then the United States may continue its efforts to incite the public and whip up a civil war because the people are already divided in two", he noted.

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Previous sanctions were limited to assets linked to individual Maduro administration members. The career diplomat previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Guatemala from September 16, 2014 to September 20, 2017.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan warned of the possibility of an oil embargo against Venezuela.

Lucena, from the same leftist party as Maduro, rejected allegations by the opposition and much of the global community that the polls were not legitimate.

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.

The election was boycotted by the main opposition parties and widely criticised by the global community.

"The US declared the Venezuelan presidential election to be illegitimate, thus creating such a moment", he said. Oil production has plummeted 30 percent and Venezuela has defaulted on about $50 billion in debt.

National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena acknowledged a handful of complaints, but insisted they were minor compared to past elections.

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A spokesman for McKinley said the congressman would not release a statement until the bill is reconsidered. It does seem fairly likely that the Senate would move forward with a bill if the House is stymied".

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