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Venezuela expels top U.S. diplomat, two other embassy officials

CNN
Tuesday, October 1, 2013 - 9:25am

Venezuela's president said Monday that he is expelling three U.S. diplomats for their alleged involvement in acts of sabotage to destabilize the South American country.

"They have 48 hours to leave the country," President Nicolas Maduro said in remarks broadcast on state-run VTV.

"Get out of Venezuela," he said, listing several names. "Yankee go home. Enough abuses already."

The list includes Kelly Keiderling, who is the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela as the charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, according to the embassy's website.

"We have seen Maduro's televised announcement but we have not received any official notification of expulsions," said a U.S. State Department spokesperson. "We completely reject the Venezuelan government's allegations of U.S. government involvement in any type of conspiracy to destabilize the Venezuela government."

Maduro accused the group of diplomats of meeting with right-wing political opponents of his government, financing their activities and encouraging them to sabotage the country's electrical system and its economy.

Earlier this month an electrical blackout left more than half of Venezuela without power.

At the time, Maduro blamed the opposition for the massive power outage. The country has also been battling inflation and goods shortages.

Hours before he announced former President Hugo Chavez's death from cancer in March, Maduro said he was expelling two U.S. Embassy officials and accused them of plotting to destabilize the country.

At the time, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell denied the accusations.

"This fallacious assertion of inappropriate U.S. action leads us to conclude that, unfortunately, the current Venezuelan government is not interested an improved relationship," he said.

Several days later, the United States expelled two Venezuelan diplomats in response.

Maduro's remarks Monday are the latest in a series of accusations alleging plots to destabilize his government or assassinate him. He has made at least 11 such accusations since the beginning of his presidency, CNN en Español reported last week.

Maduro canceled his plans to travel to New York and attend the U.N. General Assembly last week because of what he said were plots to physically harm him there.

-- CNN's Jill Dougherty and Rafael Romo and journalist Osmary Hernandez contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire
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