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Brazil recalls 'all' diplomats, officials in Venezuela

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Brasília (AFP)

Brazil recalled its entire corps of diplomats and foreign service officials from Venezuela while ordering the government of Nicolas Maduro to pull out its representatives in Brazil, a government source told AFP on Thursday, further hardening ties between the two.

Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro had already branded the government of radical leftist Maduro a "dictatorship" and he, in return, has called Bolsonaro a "fascist."

"No-one will remain in all of Venezuela," said the source after the Official Journal revealed earlier on Thursday that four diplomats and 10 officials were ordered home from the Brazilian embassy and consulates in Venezuela.

The Official Journal cited the foreign ministry in saying that staff would be withdrawn from the embassy and the consulate in Caracas, the consulate in Ciudad Guayana and the vice consulate in Santa Elena de Uairen, on the Brazilian border.

The withdrawn diplomats include Rodolfo Braga, the head of the embassy, and Elza Moreira Marcelino de Castro, the consul general in Caracas.

Brazil is one of the more than 50 countries to have recognized the claim of Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido to be his country's acting president. Guaido made the proclamation early last year following the opposition-controlled parliament's branding of Maduro as a usurper over his 2018 re-election in a poll widely derided as rigged.

Brasilia has also recognized the ambassador to Brazil appointed by Guaido, Maria Teresa Belandria.

The last Maduro-appointed ambassador to Brazil was withdrawn in 2016.

The government source who spoke to AFP didn't say when the recall would be completed but Brazilian media said it will be done within two months.

However, the measure does not mean the embassy will be closed, the source said.

- Trading accusations -

There are an estimated 10,000 Brazilians living in Venezuela who could be affected by the measure.

"The Brazilian government is considering how assistance will be provided," the source said.

Recently, Maduro accused Bolsonaro of dragging Brazil's military "into an armed conflict with Venezuela."

That was a reference to an attack by deserters on a military detachment in Venezuela's Bolivar state that borders Brazil, after which five Venezuelan military personnel claimed asylum in Brazil. Bolsonaro seemed to dismiss the accusations when asked by reporters, and the foreign ministry said the president "does not comment on statements from the dictatorial government of Maduro."

But even after that exchange, Brazil did not ask Venezuelan diplomats to leave the country.

And in November, around a dozen Guaido supporters invaded Venezuela's embassy in Brasilia but left 13 hours later under pressure from Brazilian authorities.

Venezuela's economy has been devastated by a political and economic crisis that has forced millions to flee, many of them into neighboring Brazil.

Thursday's announcement comes before Bolsonaro -- who is known as an admirer of his American counterpart Donald Trump -- is set to leave Saturday for the US cities of Miami and Dallas, where he will likely seek to lure foreign investment in Brazil.

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