WASHINGTON –Venezuela, facing massive protests almost a year after a disputed and contentious presidential election, now booted three American diplomats out of the country.
Reuters reported that Venezuela accused them of helping organize student protests against the current socialist government led by President Nicolas Maduro. The U.S. State Department denied these allegations as “baseless and false.”
Three people were shot and killed during the current wave of protests, where students stand up to the Maduro regime and demand reform and change. Maduro called them “fascists” and banned public demonstrations, but the students continue to defy Maduro and his supporters.
Maduro was the heir apparent to former president Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer after spending weeks and months in Cuban hospitals for treatment. Chavez’s supporters, including Maduro, blamed the U.S. for Chavez’s death and cancer. Maduro, after a contentious and very close election, continued Chavez’s socialist policies.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said that three American consulate officials used visa visits to Venezuelan universities as a cover to recruit students to participate in opposition protests. He said, “They have been visiting universities with the pretext of granting visas…But that is a cover for making contacts with (student) leaders to offer them training and financing to create youth groups that generate violence.”
Jaua gave the three American officials 48 hours to leave the country.
The protests highlight rampant crime, growing unemployment, rising inflation and dwindling rations and daily supplies like toilet paper.