Venezuela has ordered El Salvador’s diplomats to leave the country in 48 hours in retaliation against San Salvador for expelling its officials a day earlier.
On Saturday, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele announced via Twitter that Venezuela’s diplomats under embattled President Nicolas Maduro had two days to leave the country.
El Salvador is one of more than 55 countries to officially reject Maduro’s presidency, and Bukele said that it would accept the diplomatic mission of opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Guaido appointed himself interim president of Venezuela earlier this year after the National Assembly deemed Maduro’s 2018 re-election illegitimate.
Since then, Maduro has clung to power as mostly Western powers, led by the United States, continue to impose sanctions and tighten other diplomatic vices on Venezuela to force him to step down.
On Sunday, Maduro’s regime announced in a statement that it would be expelling El Salvador’s representatives from the country for “breathing oxygen into the failing U.S. strategy of intervention and economic blockade against the people of Venezuela.”
He accused Bukele of playing the “sad role of a pawn” in U.S. foreign policy.
Bukele, who earlier this summer assumed the office of the president, responded Sunday, saying that Maduro had expelled the diplomats placed in Venezuela by his predecessor, Salvador Sanchez Ceren.
“I forgot to mention that our government had not appointed a single official in our embassy in Venezuela,” he said in a tweet. “So, the Maduro regime has just expelled officials appointed 100 percent by the government of Sanchez Ceren, whom they called their friends.”
U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Embajador Ronald Johnson said Sunday that the Maduro regime lacks the authority to make such a demand.
“Maduro’s illegitimate regime has no authority to decide whether to accept international diplomates or make decisions regarding diplomatic relations,” he said in a Twitter thread.
Following Bukele’s move on Saturday, Johnson congratulated him for being “on the right side of history.”
The move came days after the United States and El Salvador reached a deal to extend work permits for an estimated 250,000 Salvadorans in the United States under Temporary Protected Status.