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Venezuela reciprocates El Salvador’s expulsion of diplomats

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza speaks during a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Caracas, Venezuela, on January 28, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Venezuela says it is expelling El Salvador’s diplomats in a tit-for-tat move that comes a day after San Salvador said it had given Venezuelan diplomats two days’ time to leave.

In a statement on Sunday, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry announced the decision, adding that Caracas, “in accordance with the principle of reciprocity,” had given Salvadoran diplomats 48 hours to leave the country.

On Saturday, El Salvador said that Venezuelan diplomats had to leave the country within 48 hours.

The oil-rich Venezuela plunged into political turmoil in January when opposition figure Juan Guaido declared himself “interim president” of the country, rejecting the outcome of the May 2018 election, which incumbent President Nicolas Maduro won.

The highly controversial move received immediate recognition from Washington and soon after from a number of its allies. The US-backed opposition accuses Maduro of “usurping power” and wants him to step down. Caracas rejects the allegation.

The government of El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele, following the US’s suit, does not recognize Maduro, saying on Saturday that it would receive a new diplomatic corps representing Guaido.

“Salvadoran authorities are breathing oxygen into the failing US strategy of intervention and economic blockade against the people of Venezuela,” Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry further said, adding, “Bukele is officially assuming the sad role of a pawn of US foreign policy.”

The US, which has imposed several rounds of harsh sanctions against Caracas amid an economic crisis, has been pressuring for a transition in part by establishing a representative office called Washington’s Venezuela Affairs Unit (VAU) based in Colombia to keep in touch with Guaido.

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