Venezuela withdraws top diplomat from Washington

The move was a response to Obama's renewal of sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials, whom he accused of human rights violations and public corruption.

AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File
In this March 19, 2015 file photo, supporters of President Nicolas Maduro signed a petition asking the U.S. to end sanctions against Venezuelan officials accused of violating human rights, and denouncing U.S. aggression, in downtown Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro planned to give the petition to President Barack Obama at a regional summit the next month.

President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday announced that Venezuela's top diplomat in Washington would be called back to Caracas to protest President Barack Obama's decision to renew a decree imposing sanctions on several top officials from the South American country.

The two nations haven't exchanged ambassadors since 2010 and Maximilien Sanchez Arvelaiz had been Venezuela's acting charge d'affaires in the U.S. capital.

"We don't accept impositions or aggressions," Maduro said in a televised address announcing that Sanchez Arvelaiz was being recalled. "Enough of the arrogance."

In March of 2015, Obama slapped sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials, accusing them of perpetrating human rights violations and public corruption in the socialist-governed country. The individuals all came from the top echelon of the state security apparatus that was responsible for cracking down on anti-government protests that rocked Venezuela in 2104 and for pursuing charges against leading opponents.

The sanctions come after the U.S. Congress passed legislation authorizing penalties that would freeze the assets and ban visas for anyone accused of carrying out acts of violence or violating the human rights of those opposing Venezuela's government.

On Wednesday, Venezuelan officials said that Obama had sent a letter to leaders of the U.S. legislatures saying the sanctions would be renewed because the situation in Venezuela had not improved.

Maduro said the renewal "is a stain for Obama because he had plenty of opportunities to rectify the situation but imposed arrogance."

The countries have had stormy relations since the late Hugo Chavez became president of Venezuela in 1999

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