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Venezuela pulls top diplomat from U.S. over ‘threat’ decree

AFP-JIJI

President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday recalled Venezuela’s top diplomat from the United States in protest against the renewal of a year-old U.S. decree calling his country a security threat.

“Enough arrogance, double standards, condescension and intrigue,” the leftist leader said as he announced he was summoning charge d’affaires Maximilien Arvelaiz back to Caracas. “Bolivar’s Venezuela deserves respect.”

The United States and Venezuela have been without ambassadors in each other’s capitals since 2010.

Relations between the two countries are typically tense, with Caracas often accusing Washington of imperialist meddling in Latin America.

Venezuela had proposed Arvelaiz as ambassador to the United States a year and a half ago, but the State Department has not approved him.

Maduro said he is acting in response to President Barack Obama’s announcement last week that he would renew a decree that classifies Venezuela as an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to U.S. national security.

Maduro also criticized Obama for not approving Arvelaiz.

“Don’t they want good relations with us? I think not,” Maduro said at a ceremony organized to condemn the U.S. decree renewal.

Obama last week cited the grounds for the U.S. decision as rampant corruption in Venezuela and the government’s ongoing violation of human rights and persecution of opposition leaders.

The U.S. move came amid high tensions in Venezuela. The opposition announced Tuesday it will try to force Maduro from power with a recall referendum, a constitutional amendment shortening the presidential term and vigorous street protests.

Maduro has said the opposition wants to oust him with help from the United States.