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Venezuelan president expels top US diplomat

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President Nicolas Maduro ordered the expulsion of the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela following a new round of sanctions imposed by Washington over his re-election.

Venezuelan authorities see new sanctions placed on the Latin American nation by the United States after Sunday's presidential election as the "crime against humanity", the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday, Sputnik reported.

"I repudiate all the sanctions that are sought against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, because they harm it, they generate suffering for the people of Venezuela", said Maduro.

Accusing U.S. charge d'affaires Todd Robinson of being involved in "a military conspiracy", Maduro ordered him and another senior diplomat, Brian Naranjo, to leave within 48 hours.

Maduro said the expulsions were "in defense of the dignity of the homeland", and received a standing ovation from the crowd.

Most opposition organizers had urged Venezuelans not to participate in an election from which the most popular anti-government leaders had been banned.

"I'm prepared to sell coffee because us migrants have to be prepared to start from the bottom", said Rojas, who plans to settle in Lima, Peru.

FILE - In this March 14, 2018 file photo, United States Chargé d'Affaires Todd Robinson attends the inauguration of a culture center that will facilitate study overseas opportunities for Venezuelan youths, in Lecheria, Venezuela.

Fourteen countries including Argentina, Brazil and Canada recalled their ambassadors from Caracas in protest.

The two US diplomats are the latest to become targets of official wrath in the years since Venezuela adopted a quasi-socialist system. One of the two diplomats - the US chief of mission, Todd Robinson - also had vigorously taken the Maduro government to task over the case of Joshua Holt, an American imprisoned in Venezuela.

The vote was marred by an opposition boycott and allegations of fraud, which led the USA to tighten sanctions.

Maduro won 68 percent of the vote, but 52 percent of voters did not cast ballots - a historic abstention rate. Turnout in the three previous presidential elections averaged 79 percent.

USA officials have also said the administration might consider imposing oil sanctions on Venezuela.

Why did the U.S. tighten sanctions? More than 1 million people have fled the country in the past two years and 14,000 percent inflation has crushed the minimum wage to less than $2 a month.

Evangelical candidate to the presidency Javier Bertucci likewise initially rejected the results "on account of the red points", which he said were "bribing people with food and money".

Beyond that, the US has few good options for forcing Mr. -Venezuelan oil transactions and making it harder for Venezuelan officials to profit from selling off the country's assets.

In a statement on Tuesday, Venezuela's foreign ministry said the sanctions violated global law and blamed the US "blockade" of the country for "blocking the population's access to basic goods".

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