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Venezuela halts communication with U.S. diplomat

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela has halted communication with a top U.S. diplomat in the wake of President Hugo Chavez’s death.

Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said Wednesday that “any type of contact has been postponed” with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson, who had reportedly reached out to Venezuela’s government before Chavez’s death.

Jaua specified, however, that diplomatic and consular relations would remain between the two countries.

Venezuela’s government expelled two military attaches earlier this month for allegedly talking to members of the country’s armed forces. Washington responded by ejecting two Venezuelan diplomats, who were honored by Jaua Wednesday.

The two countries haven’t had ambassadors posted in each other’s capitals since 2010.

With an April 14 presidential vote approaching to replace Chavez, Venezuelan officials have intensified their rhetoric against the U.S., warning it to not interfere in the vote. Acting leader and government candidate Nicolas Maduro has even accused the U.S. of infecting Chavez with the cancer that killed him and of working with opposition candidate Henrique Capriles .

At the same time, Maduro has accused former U.S. officials of plotting to kill Capriles in the hopes of fomenting a coup. The U.S. State Department has rejected that accusation while calling for free and fair elections.

On Wednesday, Jaua accused two former U.S. assistant secretaries of state of seeking Central American mercenaries to carry out the supposed assassination plot.

“Hopefully there will be a rectification and the meddling of the United States will cease,” Jaua said.

Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018:
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