The US has dismissed the accusation of the Venezuelan government as “baseless and false” that its diplomats were allegedly organising anti-government protests in the country. The US reaction came after Venezuela on Monday ordered expulsion of three of its diplomats – Breann Marie McCusker, Jeffrey Gordon Elsen and Kristopher Lee Clark – accusing them of plotting with anti-government protesters.
“The allegations against our diplomats by the Venezuelan government are baseless and false. And as we’ve long said, Venezuela’s political future is for the Venezuelan people to decide,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. He said the Venezuelan government tries to distract from its own actions by blaming the US or other countries for events inside.
The US values its strong, historic and cultural ties with the Venezuelan people and remains committed to the relationship with them, Carney said adding that Washington is deeply concerned about the violence there. “We are alarmed by the Venezuelan government’s use of security forces and armed gangs affiliated with the government to disrupt peaceful protests, which is disproportionate and threatens further escalation of the violence,” he said.
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“Venezuelan authorities have arrested and detained scores of anti-government protesters. We call on the government to release them immediately and to provide the political space necessary for meaningful dialogue with the Venezuelan people,” Carney said. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said the Venezuelan government notified the US on February 17 that they have declared three consular officers personae non gratae and gave them 48 hours to leave.
“In accordance with Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and Article 23 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the United States is considering what actions to take,” she said. Psaki said US Consular Officers were conducting normal outreach activities at universities on student visas, which is something they do around the world as a way to improve the accessibility and transparency of the visa process.