Venezuela’s government says it’s giving the U.S. two weeks to slash the size of its embassy staff in Caracas by over 80% from 100 diplomats to a mere 17 as tensions between the two nations rise, Reuters reported on Monday.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez made the announcement on Monday following a meeting with the top U.S. diplomat in Caracas.
Rodriguez said it is up to the U.S. to decide which of an estimated 100 diplomats it wishes to send home.
“They have 15 days to reduce the size of their embassy to 17 staffers,” Delcy Rodriguez said, according to Reuters.
The move came after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro lashed out on Saturday at what he called U.S. “conspiracies” against his socialist government and ordered the foreign ministry to reduce the number of officials at the U.S. embassy from 100 to 17.
Maduro also imposed visa requirements for U.S. tourists to enter the nation.
Maduro claimed that Venezuela had detained U.S. citizens on suspicion of espionage, which included a U.S. pilot of Latino origin.
The U.S. has not exchanged ambassadors with Venezuela since 2010.
On February 20, White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said that the U.S. State and Treasury departments are considering “tools” that could be used to “steer” Venezuela in a “better direction”.