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Washington Expels Three Venezuelan Diplomats

<p>The move comes a week after Venezuela President Nicholas Maduro ousted three U.S. diplomats from Caracas.</p>

The State Department announced Thursday that it has expelled a trio of Venezuelan envoys following similar action against three U.S. consular officials in capital city Caracas.

State spokeswoman Jen Psaki said three Venezuelan diplomats — First Secretary Ignacio Luis Cajal Avalos, First Secretary Victor Manuel Pisani Azpurua and Second Secretary Marcos Jose Garcia Figueredo — have 48 hours to exit the country.

Venezuela President Nicholas Maduro ousted three U.S. diplomats from Caracas on Feb. 17, charging them with backing opposition plots to depose him by recruiting students to lead protests in Caracas.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the unrest in the Latin American nation is a matter between Maduro and his people — not between Venezuela and the U.S.

"President Maduro needs to focus on addressing the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people through meaningful dialogue with them, not through dialogue with the United States," Carney said.

He added: "We've been clear all along that the future of Venezuela is for the Venezuelan people to decide."

Psaki said the U.S. is concerned about Venezuela's human rights record and democratic bona fides, but said the Obama administration is still open to a diplomatic relationship with Maduro.

But first, Psaki said, Venezuela "needs to show seriousness" for the U.S. to take steps toward reconciliation.

"Recent actions, including expelling three of our diplomats, continue to make that difficult," Psaki said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.