Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro announced the expulsion of three U.S. diplomats during a live speech to soldiers commemorating 200 years since the day when Atanasio Girardot died fighting for the nation’s independence.
Maduro asked Foreign Minister Elias Jaua to expel the three American diplomats, giving them 48 hours to leave the country, according to a report in the Latin American Herald Tribune.
Maduro accused the diplomats of meeting with the country’s “right wing” to plan economic and electrical system sabotage.
“We have sufficient evidence collected of the hostile, illegal and interventionist attitude of the officials,” Maduro said. “Out of Venezuela. Yankee, go home! Enough with the abuse.”
The diplomats expelled have been named as Kelly Keiderling – the charge d’affaires and the most senior U.S. diplomat in Caracas – David Moo and Elizabeth Hoffman.
According to the New York Times, relations between the two countries have been bad for over a decade.
For years, the late President Hugo Chavez denounced “American imperialism” in Latin America.
In December 2010, Chavez denied a visa to the man appointed to be U.S. ambassador to Caracas, Larry Palmer, over remarks he had made about involvement between the Venezuelan government and Colombian Farc rebels.
“Anyone who comes here as an ambassador has to show respect. This is a country that must be respected,” Chavez said at the time.
The U.S. retaliated and expelled the Venezuelan ambassador to Washington.
Maduro took office as interim president when Chavez was terminally ill with cancer. He was elected president in April by a narrow margin, defeating opposition leader Henrique Capriles.