Venezuela's Maduro orders expulsion of top USA diplomats


Maduro announced the expulsions in a televised speech after being officially proclaimed the victor of Sunday's election in the South American nation mired in an acute economic crisis and facing growing global isolation.

The outcry followed US condemnation even before the pro-government National Election Council declared Maduro the overwhelming victor in Sunday's vote, which drew the lowest participation on record for a presidential election in decades. "You seek treatment", said Nayra Martinez, a city employee in the wealthy Caracas district of Chacao who chose to buck her party's call to abstain.

The EU has followed Washington's lead in condemning the Venezuelan elections, saying that the presidential and regional polls "went ahead without a national agreement on an electoral calendar and without complying with the minimum global standards for a credible process".

The order came one day after Maduro won a presidential election that many consider to have been fraudulent.

Zapatero, who facilitated the previous round of government-opposition dialogue in the Dominican Republic in January, said that Sunday's vote had gone forward "peacefully" and opposition candidates should direct any complaints they have regarding the electoral process through the appropriate institution channels.

Most mainstream economists say the country's strict currency controls, heavy state intervention and money-printing are responsible for a crisis that has caused widespread shortages of food and medicine and led to mass emigration.

"Venezuela's election was a sham - neither free nor fair". The vice president did not, however, cite evidence to support the allegations of fraud.

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Sunday's result was similarly rejected by the bloc of regional right-leaning governments known as the "Lima Group", which includes Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Santa Lucia.

"We strongly reject the accusations against me and against" Naranjo, he told journalists in the western city of Merida, promising to return there even despite Maduro expulsing him.

Asked if China would congratulate Maduro specifically, Lu said, "China will handle that in accordance with its diplomatic practice", without elaborating.

On Monday, President Donald Trump tightened sanctions against Caracas, making it harder for the Maduro regime to sell off state assets.

Of course, North Korea has suffered from U.S. (and UN) sanctions created to pressure it into giving up its nuclear weapons.

Maduro received his credentials for a second term, which would keep him in office until 2025, from the head of the election commission.

Latin American and European countries should move fast to impose individual financial and visa sanctions on top Venezuelan officials, their relatives and straw men.