CARACAS, Venezuela – President Nicolas Maduro announced Monday the expulsion of the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela and two other embassy employees for allegedly conspiring with “the extreme right” to sabotage the economy and power grid.
The U.S. Embassy called the accusations unfounded.
Maduro made the announcement during a live TV appearance and said they had 48 hours to leave the country.
“Out of Venezuela,” the leftist leader shouted, then added in English: “Yankees go home!”
Maduro said a group of embassy officials that his government had been following for months was “dedicated to meeting with the Venezuelan extreme right, to financing it and feeding its actions to sabotage the electrical system and the Venezuela economy.”
“I have proof here in my hands,” he said, though he did not offer any details on the diplomats’ alleged transgressions other than to say they met with opposition and labor leaders in the southwestern state of Bolivar, which is home to a number of troubled state-owned foundries and Venezuela’s main hydroelectric plant.
Expelled were Charge D’Affaires Kelly Keiderling, the top embassy official in the absence of an ambassador, consular officer David Moo and Elizabeth Hoffman, who works in the embassy’s political section.
State TV showed video of the three American officials meeting with a mayor in Bolivar and visiting offices of Sumate, an electoral-monitoring group that helped organize a failed 2004 recall vote against Maduro’s predecessor, President Hugo Chavez.
“We completely reject the Venezuelan government’s allegations of U.S. government involvement in any type of conspiracy to destabilize the Venezuela government,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement.
It said the recent trip by Keiderling, Moo and Hoffman consisted of “normal diplomatic engagement.” Venezuela and the United States have been without ambassadors since 2010.