Venezuela refuses to withdraw diplomats from Brazil

Caracas (AFP) –


Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro's government stepped up a diplomatic spat with neighbor Brazil on Thursday, accusing it of putting Venezuelan diplomats under "undue pressure" to leave the country within 48 hours.

Brazil is one of around 60 countries to recognize Maduro's opposition rival Juan Guaido as Venezuela's acting president and announced on March 5 it was ordering Maduro-appointed diplomats to withdraw.

The foreign ministry in Caracas accused Brazil of "attempting to force the premature departure of Venezuelan diplomatic and consular staff by May 2," and said no talks had taken place over the exit.

"Venezuela's diplomatic and consular staff in Brazil will not abandon their functions under subterfuge under international law," Caracas' foreign ministry said in a statement.

The government also accused Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro of "subordination" in its relations with the United States, which has deployed a battery of economic sanctions on Maduro's regime.

Bolsonaro, a key US ally, last month ordered all Brazilian diplomats to pull out of Venezuela.

Supporters of Guaido, who has appointed parallel diplomatic representation in several countries, briefly occupied Venezuela's embassy in Brasilia in November last year, but withdrew after Brazil's foreign ministry intervened.

The leader of his country's National Assembly, Guaido proclaimed himself president early last year after Maduro's re-election months earlier was widely derided as rigged.