US to expel Venezuelan diplomats in retaliation

State TV broadcast footage which it claimed showed the diplomats leaving offices linked to the opposition, as Emily Thomas reports

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Three Venezuelan diplomats are being expelled from the US after Caracas expelled three American officials, the US State Department says.

The diplomats, who include charge d'affaires Calixto Ortega Rios, have been given 48 hours to leave.

On Tuesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused the US diplomats of plotting to sabotage the economy.

He said he had evidence they took part in a power-grid sabotage in September and had bribed firms to cut production.

He gave the three - charge d'affaires Kelly Keiderling, David Moo and Elizabeth Hoffman - 48 hours to leave, saying: "Yankees, go home!"

However, the US State Department rejected the allegations.

An official told the BBC: "It is regrettable that the Venezuelan government has again decided to expel US diplomatic officials based on groundless allegations, which require reciprocal action.

"It is counterproductive to the interests of both our countries and not a serious way for a country to conduct its foreign policy."

As well as Calixto Ortega Rios, the Venezuelan diplomats being expelled are Second Secretary Monica Alejandra Sanchez Morales at the Washington embassy, and Consul Marisol Gutierrez de Almeida at the Houston consulate.

The United States and Venezuela have been without ambassadors in each other's capitals since 2010.

The late President Hugo Chavez accused the US of "imperialism" in Latin America.

In December 2010, he denied a visa to the man appointed to be US ambassador to Caracas, Larry Palmer, over remarks he had made about involvement between the Venezuelan government and Colombian Farc rebels.

The US retaliated and expelled the Venezuelan ambassador to Washington.

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