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A guard opens the gate at Venezuela's embassy in San Salvador on Nov. 3, 2019. El Salvador has ordered the expulsion of Venezuelan government diplomats who are loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, saying it would receive a new diplomatic corps representing opposition leader Juan Guaido.The Associated Press

Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday it was expelling El Salvador’s diplomats from the country, in response to the Central American country’s decision to kick out their counterparts representing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

In a statement, the ministry said it would give the diplomats 48 hours to leave. Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele’s government does not recognize Mr. Maduro as legitimate and said on Saturday it would receive a new diplomatic corps representing opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Mr. Guaido, who presides over the opposition-controlled National Assembly, in January invoked the South American country’s constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing Mr. Maduro stole the 2018 election. He has been recognized by dozens of Western countries, including the United States and Canada.

The Salvadoran move came less than a week after the U.S. government extended temporary protections for Salvadorans living in the United States by an extra year.

“Salvadoran authorities are breathing oxygen into the failing U.S. strategy of intervention and economic blockade against the people of Venezuela,” Venezuela’s ministry said. “Bukele is officially assuming the sad role of a pawn of U.S. foreign policy.”

Mr. Maduro, a Socialist, calls Mr. Guaido a U.S. puppet seeking to oust him in a coup, and blames U.S. sanctions for a hyperinflationary economic collapse that has led to a humanitarian crisis in the once-prosperous OPEC country, prompting millions to emigrate.

While most of Venezuela’s neighbours recognize Mr. Guaido and have called on Mr. Maduro to step down, Mr. Maduro has remained in power owing to the backing of the armed forces and allies including Russia, China and Cuba.

Mr. Guaido on Sunday thanked Mr. Bukele for his support.

“El Salvador has given a huge backing to the Venezuelan cause, isolating Maduro’s regime even more,” he wrote on Twitter.

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