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Venezuela's Maduro, who acts a few days after the election victory



CARACAS, Venezuela – Nicolas Maduro wasted no time in consolidating power after his controversial victory in the Venezuelan president. He has thrown out US diplomats, arrested alleged military conspirators and fought against the nation's last surviving critical big newspaper.

The Socialist leader won a second six-year term as president of this troubled country on Sunday, despite widespread anger over food and medicine, which has driven hundreds of thousands to leave Venezuela in search of a better life.

His leading challenger and many Maduro accused in the international community of staging a "bogus ballot" through tactics such as banning leading opposition candidates and buying votes by enticing the poor with the promise of a prize

quickly beat Maduro biggest critic back and aimed at the US embassy.

In a speech that adopted the election results, Maduro announced that he would leave the top US-appointed diplomat, Charge d'Affaires Todd Robinson and his deputy, Brian Naranjo, within 48 hours from Venezuela. Maduro accused them of supporting the most powerful opposition politicians who boycotted the election in protest.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the US would respond to the expulsion of diplomats. Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump echoed the feeling

"This provocation will be answered with a quick response," Pence said in a Tweet repeated by Trump. "We will continue to pressure Venezuela's illegitimate regime until democracy is restored."

The State Department announced late Wednesday that the Chargé d'Affaires of the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington and Deputy Consul General of the Venezuelan Consulate in Houston had been ordered to leave the US within 48 hours.

Venezuela's campaign workers say Maduro has beaten his next challenger, Henri Falcon, with about 46 points.

Human rights activists in Venezuela meanwhile said that Maduro's government arrested at least 11 military officers as suspects in an alleged plot to overthrow the government.

There was no sign of wavering support from the leadership of the Venezuelan military, who had long been the arbiter of Venezuela's political disputes. On election day, heads of state went into government service and praised what they called a perfect vote throughout the country.

Activists Alfredo Romero, executive director of the Foro Penal lawyer collective, said on Twitter that military courts had agreed to the arrests as voters went to the polls.

The authorities have not reported or commented on the arrests. So far, human rights activists have estimated that more than 120 soldiers were arrested.

In a broad backlash after the elections, a coalition of 14 countries across America, including Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, pledged to return to diplomatic relations with Venezuela. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy condemned the election because he did not respect "minimal democratic standards".

The Inter-American Development Bank announced that it would suspend further loans to Venezuela for not being able to settle $ 88 million in debt. This deprives the financially weak country of a potentially important source of funding. Venezuela's debt to the bank is $ 2 billion, bank officials said.

However, in at least one show of support, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Maduro called for his congratulations late Tuesday and joined China, Russia and Cuba in support. Turkish officials said Maduro and Erdogan "underlined their determination to develop relations in all areas."

Maduro's government launched an investigation Tuesday on the online release of El Nacional, the largest critical newspaper, against hatred.

The National Telecommunications Commission had ordered the newspaper to stop publishing content on its website that was trying to disrupt the peace among the inhabitants of Venezuela. The newspaper received 10 days to present its defense.

El Nacional editor, Miguel Henrique Otero, called the action "political retaliation" and said that the investigation proves an intensified "persecution of the country's independent press".

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.


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