US expels top Venezuelan diplomat from Washington

US expels top Venezuelan diplomat from Washington
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The U.S. expelled Venezuela's top diplomat in the U.S. from Washington on Wednesday, in a tit-for-tat response to Caracas's decision to boot two American diplomats from the country a day earlier.

The State Department said in a statement that it had declared the Chargé d’Affaires of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington and the deputy consul general of the country's consulate in Houston "personae non grata."

The two Venezuelan diplomats have been given 48 hours to leave the U.S., the State Department said.

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Declaring foreign diplomats personae non grata is among the most serious forms of censure by governments, effectively banning them from the country.

The expulsions come in response to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's decision on Tuesday to expel the chargé d’affaires and deputy chief of mission of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas for "conspiring" against his government.

The State Department rejected those allegations on Wednesday. 

The back-and-forth between Washington and Caracas comes days after Maduro won re-election in Venezuela's widely denounced presidential election.

The U.S. and Venezuela's political opposition have rejected the results of that election, labeling it a sham and have voicing concerns about irregularities in the voting process. 

The U.S. has imposed new sanctions on Venezuela in recent days in response to that election. Maduro has denounced those penalties as a "crime against humanity."

Venezuela has been ravaged by political and economic turmoil in recent years, causing millions of its citizens to flee to neighboring countries, like Brazil and Colombia.