US expels two Venezuelan diplomats in tit-for-tat retaliation

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Venezuela's acting president, Nicolas Maduro, announced the expulsion of two American diplomats when Chavez died on Tuesday, accusing them of plotting a coup. The Obama administration has flatly denied the accusation.

President Obama has expressed hope for better relations with Venezuela – he sent a delegation to Chavez's funeral over the weekend – but Nuland said the retaliation was justified and necessary.

“Clearly, when you have an incident that you consider unjust, then you need to take reciprocal action and make your point clear,” she said, calling it necessary to “protect our own people.”

“We've also said, all the way through this … that we do hope for better relations with Venezuela; there is work that we would like to do together – particularly in the areas of counterterrorism, counternarcotics, economics and energy relations - but it's going to take a change of tone from Caracas.”

New presidential elections are scheduled for April 14.