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US Weighs Venezuela’s Order to Cut US Embassy Staff

FILE - Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro accuses the United States of trying to undermine the Caracas government.

The State Department said Tuesday it will respond through "diplomatic channels" to Venezuela's demand that it cut the number of staffers at the U.S. embassy in Caracas.

As ties between the U.S. and Venezuela worsen, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf called Caracas' charge that the United States is trying to undermine the government "baseless."

Venezuela has given Washington two weeks to reduce embassy staff from 100 to 17, the number of diplomats Venezuela says it has in the U.S.

But along with its embassy in Washington, there are eight Venezuelan consulates in the U.S., meaning the actual number of diplomatic staffers may be more than 17.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro also announced last week that U.S. tourists would now need visas to come to Venezuela, and said a U.S. pilot is being held for alleged spying.

Four U.S. missionaries who were questioned about spying last week have since left the country.

Maduro has accused the United States of plotting to topple his Socialist government – the same charge frequently made by his late predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

Neither leader has ever presented any evidence to back up their charges, which the U.S. has dismissed as ludicrous.

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