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Clock Ticking for US Diplomats Expelled from Venezuela

  • VOA News

Pedestrians walk past a wall outside the U.S. embassy, Caracas, Oct. 1, 2013.

Pedestrians walk past a wall outside the U.S. embassy, Caracas, Oct. 1, 2013.

The clock is ticking for the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela and two other U.S. embassy employees one day after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced their expulsion, accusing them of conspiring with the political opposition.

President Maduro made the announcement on live television Monday, saying the diplomats have 48 hours to leave the country. The Venezuelan government released video it says proves the U.S. officials met with opposition and labor leaders to sabotage Venezuela's economy and electrical system.

One of the three people in the video was identified as U.S. Charge d'Affaires Kelly Keiderling. She ranks as the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela since the U.S. has no ambassador in the South American nation.

The U.S. embassy has denied the Venezuelan accusations, saying it rejects allegations the U.S. government was involved in "any type of conspiracy" to "destabilize" Venezuela's government.

The footage aired on Venezuelan state television Monday showed three people in Bolivar state leaving the offices of Sumate, an electoral-monitoring group that in 2004 helped organize a failed recall vote against Maduro's predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela's foreign minister, Elias Jaua, accused the U.S. officials of plotting with Sumate to not recognize the results of Venezuela's upcoming municipal elections on December 8, as well as other transgressions.

The U.S. embassy statement said the three diplomats' trip to Bolivar was part of "normal diplomatic engagement."

In March, Maduro expelled two U.S. military attaches hours before announcing Chavez had died of cancer.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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