U.S. returns the favors ejecting three Venezuelan diplomats

The United States has expelled Venezuela’s top diplomat and two others, after Venezuela kicked out three U.S. diplomats it accused of plotting sabotage.

The Caracas government criticized the U.S. response, saying the Venezuelan diplomats had not been meeting with groups opposed to U.S. President Barack Obama.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had accused U.S. Charge d’Affaires Kelly Keiderling and the two other U.S. officials of conspiring with the South American nation’s political opposition when he announced their expulsion Monday. Ms. Keiderling ranks as the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela since the two countries have not had ambassadors in each other’s capitals since 2010.

The U.S. State Department has said it rejects allegations the U.S. was involved in any type of conspiracy to destabilize Venezuela’s government. The U.S. Embassy in Venezuela and Keiderling herself said the diplomats’ trip to Bolivar state was part of normal diplomatic engagement.

The State Department said it is regrettable that the Venezuelan government has again decided to expel U.S. diplomatic officials on what it called groundless allegations. The department called the move counterproductive to the interests of both countries.

The dispute is a clear setback in Washington’s attempts to improve ties with Caracas after the death of leftist leader and long-standing U.S. foe Hugo Chávez.

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