Venezuela expels El Salvador's diplomats in 'reciprocal' move

Caracas' move comes a day after San Salvador expelled diplomats representing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

    Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a news conference at the foreign ministry in Caracas [File: Ariana Cubillos/AP]
    Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a news conference at the foreign ministry in Caracas [File: Ariana Cubillos/AP]

    Venezuela ordered El Salvador's diplomats to leave the country in reprisal for President Nayib Bukele's expulsion of officials representing the government in Caracas.

    El Salvador does not recognise Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as legitimate and said on Saturday it would receive a new diplomatic corps representing opposition leader, Juan Guaido.

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    Guaido, who presides over the opposition-controlled National Assembly in January invoked the South American country's constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing Maduro stole the 2018 election.

    He has been recognised by dozens of countries, including the United States, Brazil, Colombia and Chile. 

    In response, the Venezuelan foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday it declared each of the Salvadoran diplomatic staff in Caracas persona non grata and gave them 48 hours to leave.

    "Salvadoran authorities are breathing oxygen into the failing US strategy of intervention and economic blockade against the people of Venezuela," the ministry said.

    "Bukele is officially assuming the sad role of a pawn of US foreign policy."

    The Salvadoran move came less than a week after the US government extended temporary protections for Salvadorans living in the US by an extra year.

    The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was provided to citizens of the Central American country following two devastating earthquakes in 2001 that killed 8,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

    US Ambassador Ronald Johnson reacted warmly to El Salvador's decision.

    "We applaud the government of President Nayib Bukele for ensuring that El Salvador is on the right side of history," he said on Twitter.

    Maduro calls Guaido a US puppet seeking to remove him in a coup, and blames US sanctions for a hyperinflationary economic collapse that has led to a humanitarian crisis in the once-prosperous OPEC nation, prompting millions to emigrate.

    While most of Venezuela's neighbours recognise Guaido and have called on Maduro to step down, the Venezuelan leader has remained in power thanks to the backing of the armed forces and allies, including Russia, China and Cuba.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies