- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Obama administration has ordered the expulsion of three Venezuelan diplomats from the U.S. after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro earlier this month kicked out three U.S. diplomats whom he accused of fomenting unrest in the Latin American nation.

The State Department on Monday night gave the three diplomats at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington 48 hours to leave.

“This was in response to the actions taken by the government of Venezuela,” State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said.

Ms. Psaki identified the Venezuelan diplomats as: First Secretary Ignacio Luis Cajal Avalos, First Secretary Victor Manuel Pisani Azpurua and Second Secretary Marcos Jose Garcia Figueredo.

Mr. Maduro ordered the expulsion of the U.S. diplomats on Feb. 17.

The Venezuelan leader’s order followed a statement from Secretary of State John F. Kerry expressing alarm at the Maduro government’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. Mr. Lopez has since been arrested.

“We have serious concerns about some issues in Venezuela, including democracy and human rights, and we’ll continue to express those concerns,” Ms. Psaki told reporters at the State Department on Tuesday. “We have indicated, and have indicated for months, our openness to develop a more constructive relationship with Venezuela, but again, recent actions including expelling three of our diplomats, continue to make that difficult.”

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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