CARACAS, Venezuela — President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday that Venezuela will not have cordial relations with the United States as long as U.S. diplomats continue what he alleges are attempts to destabilize his country.
He said "new points of contact" can be established, but only if Washington ends such activity.
Maduro's tough talk came a day after he announced the expulsion of the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela, Charge d'Affaires Kelly Keiderling, and two other embassy officials, alleging they conspired with "the extreme right" to sabotage the economy and power grid.
The United States again on Tuesday rejected the allegations that it is trying to destabilize this South American nation.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Venezuela's government declared Keiderling, the embassy's political officer and the consular officer personas non grata, and gave them 48 hours to leave Venezuela.
Psaki said the allegations were related to the U.S. Embassy workers' travel to Bolivar state, which is home to troubled state-owned foundries and Venezuela's main hydroelectric plant.
"They were there conducting normal diplomatic engagement, as we've said in the past and should come as no surprise," Psaki said.
In a news conference in Caracas, Keiderling said she and the other diplomats would leave Venezuela on Wednesday before the 48-hour deadline expired. "The work of the embassy will continue. It doesn't matter very much if it is one person or another" doing it, she said.
She said that if the accusation against them was that they had met with Venezuelans then "it is true. We met with Venezuelans."
"These meetings with civil society can be with (the independent election monitoring group) Sumate, they can be with a group of women, with mothers who have lost children or with an environmental group that wants to lobby for cleaning a park," she said. "If we aren't talking with these people, we aren't doing our jobs."