U.S. expels two Venezuelan diplomats

Washington, Mar 11 (EFE).- The United States government ordered the expulsion of two Venezuelan diplomats in retaliation for Venezuela's decision to expel the American air attache in Caracas and his assistant, sources as the U.S. State Department told Efe on Monday.

The United States notified Venezuela on Saturday about the expulsion of Second Secretary Orlando MontaƱez Olivaras and consular official Victor Camacaro Mata.

"We have received word from the Venezuelan Embassy that they have already left the country," the official said, who ask for anonymity since he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Venezuela's leftist government announced last Tuesday that U.S. Air Force Col. David Del Monaco and his aide had been ordered to leave the country after they were detected trying to recruit Venezuelan military personnel for "destabilizing projects."

The State Department and the Pentagon denied the allegations.

The expulsion comes soon after the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez after a nearly two-year battle with cancer.

President Barack Obama expressed his support for the Venezuelan people after the Venezuelan leader's death, and said he hoped for an improvement in bilateral relations, plagued by altercations since Chavez took office in 1999.

Before announcing the Venezuelan president's death, then-Vice President Nicolas Maduro made a veiled accusation that the United States was involved in Chavez's illness, something that Washington slammed as "absurd."