CARACAS — Venezuela ordered the U.S. embassy in Caracas to reduce staff from 100 to 17 amid the worst diplomatic flare-up between the two ideological foes since socialist President Nicolas Maduro was elected in 2013.
Maduro, who like his predecessor Hugo Chavez frequently locks horns with Washington, has stepped up accusations in recent weeks that the United States is seeking to topple him. The measures announced Monday in response to alleged coup plotting are the most significant against Washington of Maduro's nearly two-year rule, though foes say they represent a timeworn tactic to distract Venezuelans from economic troubles.
"They have 15 days to reduce the size of their embassy to 17 staffers," Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said after a meeting with the U.S. Chargé d'Affaires Lee McClenny, Washington's most senior diplomat in Venezuela. Maduro has said 100 staffers work at the embassy. Venezuela has 17 staffers in Washington, according to Maduro, who says the embassies should be on par.