- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2014

The State Department said on Monday it had not been formally notified about the expulsion of U.S. diplomats from Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday ordered three U.S. diplomats expelled from the county, accusing them of conspiring against his government.

State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said the Obama administration “has not received any formal notification” regarding the diplomats’ fate.

“The allegations that the United States is helping to organize protestors in Venezuela is baseless and false,” Ms. Psaki said. “We support human rights and fundamental freedoms — including freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly — in Venezuela as we do in countries around the world. But as we have long said, Venezuela’s political future is for the Venezuelan people to decide. We urge their government to engage all parties in meaningful dialogue.”

The reported expulsion followed a statement from the Obama administration in defense of a Venezuelan opposition member accused by Caracas of responsibility for bloodshed during anti-government protests.

Mr. Maduro accuses Leopoldo Lopez, the Harvard-educated opposition leader, of leading a “fascist” plot to topple his government.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry said on Saturday that the U.S. is “particularly alarmed by reports that the Venezuelan government has arrested or detained scores of anti-government protestors and issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.”

“These actions have a chilling effect on citizens’ rights to express their grievances peacefully,” Mr. Kerry said.

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