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The United States has expelled two Venezuelan diplomats in response to the expulsion of two U.S. officials from the South American country last week, a U.S. official said Monday.

Orlando Jose Montanez Olivares and Victor Camacaro Mata were declared personae non gratae and ordered to leave the country over the weekend, according to the official.

The Venezuelan Embassy has informed the United States that both diplomats have left the country, according to the U.S. official.

The expulsion of the Venezuelan diplomats comes after Venezuelan officials — just hours before announcing PresidentHugo Chavez’s death last week — said they were expelling two U.S. Embassy officials and accused them of plotting to destabilize the country.

The U.S. officials, both air attaches at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, are accused of having meetings with members of the Venezuelan military and encouraging them to pursue “destabilizing projects,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said.

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell denied the accusations last week.

“Notwithstanding the significant differences between our governments, we continue to believe it important to seek a functional and more productive relationship with Venezuela based on issues of mutual interest,” he said. “This fallacious assertion of inappropriate U.S. action leads us to conclude that, unfortunately, the current Venezuelan government is not interested an improved relationship.”

It isn’t the first time that diplomatic tensions have surged between the two countries.

Last year the State Department declared Venezuela’s consul general in Miami persona non grata and expelled her from the United States. In 2008, Venezuela expelled the U.S. ambassador to the South American country. A day later, the United States said it was expelling the Venezuelan ambassador.

CNN

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