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US Expels Venezuelan Ambassador

The United States has told Venezuela that its ambassador to Washington will be expelled in the latest chapter of a growing diplomatic dispute. The U.S. also slapped sanctions on Venezuelan officials for allegedly supplying arms and helping drug traffickers in South America. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports from Washington.

The U.S. State Department announced the expulsion of the Venezuelan ambassador one day after ordering Bolivia's ambassador to leave the country.

The actions came after Bolivian President Evo Morales ordered U.S. ambassador Philip Goldberg to leave, accusing him of contributing to divisions within the country.

On Thursday Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered the U.S. ambassador in Caracas to leave, a move he said was designed to show solidarity with Bolivia.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called the decisions by the two Latin American governments regrettable. "This reflects the weakness and desperation of these leaders as they face internal challenges and an inability to communicate effectively internationally in order to build international support. The charges leveled against our fine ambassadors by the leaders of Bolivia and Venezuela are false and the leaders of those countries know it," he said.

McCormack says the actions taken by Venezuela and Bolivia are hurting their people and isolating them from the rest of the world. "No country has ever improved the well-being of its citizens by antagonizing neighbors and refraining from fruitful integration with the world's democracies. Those who shout the loudest are not making the real news in the Americas," he said.

The latest diplomatic dispute came on the same day the U.S. accused two senior Venezuelan government officials and a former official of aiding Colombian rebels.

The Treasury Department accused the officials of supplying weapons and protecting drug shipments for members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC.

The U.S. froze assets of the three and prohibited Americans from conducting business transactions involving those assets.

The United States has designated the FARC as a terrorist group.