Nicolás Maduro Expels Top US Diplomats from Venezuela

Erdogan congratulates Venezuelan leader's election victory

Erdogan congratulates Venezuelan leader's election victory

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro announced Tuesday that he is expelling the top two USA diplomats in the country in retaliation for US sanctions put in place by the Trump administration after what US officials called a "sham" election.

On 20 May, elections took place in Venezuela with the highest abstention rate in a presidential election in the country over the last decades.

Maduro barred two of his most popular opposition rivals from the race and also offered government "prizes" to voters.

He accused Mr Robinson of conspiring against his socialist government.

Speaking at an event at the election board, he promised to present evidence that the U.S. embassy had been engaged in a military, economic and political conspiracy.

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 worldwide standards for a credible process".

"The empire won't dominate us here", Maduro said Tuesday in a televised event at an electoral commission meeting.

The US has not had a serving ambassador in Venezuela for eight years and Mr Robinson is its most senior representative.

Fourteen countries including Argentina, Brazil and Canada recalled their ambassadors from Caracas in protest.

The executive order prohibits US citizens from being involved in sales of Venezuela's pending invoices related to oil and other assets, though Vielma said shipments of fuel and crude to the United States would continue. One of the two diplomats - the USA chief of mission, Todd Robinson - also had vigorously taken the Maduro government to task over the case of Joshua Holt, an American imprisoned in Venezuela.

Maduro, whose second term will begin next January, won 68 percent of the vote.

The State Department said they had seen the reports and defended Robinson and Naranjo. Turnout was less than 50 percent, compared to 80 percent in 2013.

Likewise, over 150 personalities and intellectuals from the United States and Canada, including Danny Glover and Noam Chomsky, have expressed concern about the ethics of their government's sanctions against Venezuela and the humanitarian consequences.

A social crisis years in the making has worsened as Venezuela's oil production - the source of nearly all of its foreign income - has collapsed to the lowest level in decades and financial sanctions by the Trump administration have made it impossible for the government to renegotiate its debts. The two countries have provided billions of dollars in funding for Venezuela in recent years.

Ninety-nine people bought tickets on Monday morning for that trip, said Greberli Rojas, a passenger who displayed a handwritten wait-list she was keeping to avoid disputes between passengers trying to fit on the bus.

But they appeared unlikely to heed the US warnings.

Maduro has insisted Venezuela is the victim of an "economic war" waged by the conservative opposition and external powers including the United States aimed at toppling him.

"The parties involved must respect the decision of the Venezuelan people", said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang at a press conference in Beijing on Monday.

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