Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said today that the US will respond reciprocally to President Nicolas Maduro’s expulsion of the top American diplomat in Venezuela.
Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump issued tweets echoing the statement as tensions heighten between the two countries following Maduro’s victory securing a second six-year term as president.
Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the State Department received formal notice that charge d’affaires Todd Robinson had been declared persona non grata. He said the US will act in kind, suggesting it would remove Venezuela’s top diplomat in Washington.
Maduro ordered the expulsion of Robinson and his deputy Brian Naranjo for allegedly conspiring against his government by pressuring opposition groups to boycott Sunday’s presidential election that he won by a landslide. He gave the two career diplomats 48 hours to leave the country.
The United States has led the charge against tactics officials say that Maduro used to win the election. US officials say the vote was illegitimate because two main opposition parties were banned from the race and Maduro’s government unfairly influenced poor residents with offers of food to vote for him.
President Donald Trump on Monday signed an order that U.S. officials said was designed to further prevent high-ranking Venezuelan officials from profiting off corrupt business deals at the expense of hungry citizens.
Tensions have long been strained between the US and Venezuela, which haven’t exchanged ambassadors since 2010.
Vice President Mike Pence on Twitter said Maduro won the “sham” election and was also critical of the Venezuelan leader for ejecting the US diplomats. President Donald Trump retweeted the Pence’s comment.
“This provocation will be met with a swift response,” Pence said. “We will continue to pressure Venezuela’s illegitimate regime until democracy is restored.” (AP) MRJ