Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday that his country was expelling two top US diplomats following vocal criticism from the Trump administration over last Sunday’s controversial presidential elections.
Speaking at his confirmation ceremony in Caracas, Maduro declared the senior-most US official at the embassy, Todd Robinson, to be “Persona Non Grata,” along with the chief of the embassy’s political section, Brian Naranjo. He also accused the men of interfering in the election – an accusation the State Department has rejected.
The US has not had an ambassador to Venezuela since 2010, but Robinson served as the mission’s Chargé D’Affaires – a position that is akin to an acting ambassadorship.
Maduro said the expulsions were “in defense of the dignity of the homeland,” and received a standing ovation from the crowd. He said the two men would have 48 hours to depart the country.
The socialist leader won another six-year term Sunday in an election derided by opposition groups and many in the international community.
On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence called the elections “a sham,” and the White House announced a series of new sanctions targetting the Venezuelan government.
“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.