Peru on Friday ordered the expulsion of Venezuela's ambassador over his country's "break with democratic rule" under President Nicolas Maduro, and Caracas followed hours later with its own tit-for-tat response.
Ambassador Diego Molero has five days to leave Peru, the foreign ministry said. In Venezuela, the government responded by expelling Lima's top envoy Carlos Rossi, with the same deadline given.
"In light of the measure adopted by the Peruvian government, we find ourselves in the lamentable obligation to expel the charge d'affaires of Peru in Venezuela," a Venezuelan foreign ministry statement read.
It labeled Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski as an "enemy" of Venezuela, accusing him of "continually interfering" in the country's internal affairs.
Peru's decision came days after its congress voted for the Venezuelan envoy to be kicked out.
"The Peruvian government ratifies its firm position of continuing to contribute to the restoration of democracy in Venezuela," a statement said.
On Tuesday, Peru and 11 other major nations in the Americas, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile and Mexico, slammed Caracas for undermining democracy by establishing a new, all-powerful assembly of Maduro loyalists to override the opposition-controlled legislature.
The United States has separately slapped sanctions on Maduro and on several members of the assembly for setting up what it calls a "dictatorship."
Maduro has rejected the accusation, insisting the new body, the Constituent Assembly, was elected by eight million Venezuelan voters as a step to "peace," notably through the rewriting of the constitution.
But claims of fraud surround the July 30 vote. Smartmatic, a British-based company that supplied the balloting technology has said turnout figures were "tampered with."
The United States is reportedly seeking to coordinate further action against Venezuela with Latin American countries -- an objective likely included in a trip US Vice President Mike Pence is making to the region starting Sunday.
Peru's expulsion order does not represent a suspension of diplomatic relations. Kuczynski dismissed that scenario this week.
"If we broke off relations, we would have to look to another government to look after the Peruvians" living in Venezuela, estimated at 40,000, he said.
Peru recalled its ambassador to Caracas in late March in protest at criticisms Maduro's government had made against Kuczynski.
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