Venezuela expels Ecuador diplomat in tit-for-tat move

A man holds a Venezuelan flag during a rally in Caracas, Venezuela. The country expelled Ecuador's top diplomat, Elizabeth Mendez, on Oct 18, 2018.
A man holds a Venezuelan flag during a rally in Caracas, Venezuela. The country expelled Ecuador's top diplomat, Elizabeth Mendez, on Oct 18, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

CARACAS (AFP) - Venezuela on Thursday (Oct 18) ordered Ecuador's top diplomat in Caracas to leave the country, hours after Quito expelled Venezuela's ambassador over "offensive" comments about its president.

Venezuela said it was "forced to take reciprocal action against the Charge d'Affaires of Ecuador in Venezuela, Elizabeth Mendez, who is declared a persona non-grata and has 72 hours to leave the country".

The move follows Ecuador's expulsion of Venezuelan ambassador Carol Delgado earlier on Thursday for "offensive" comments against President Lenin Moreno by a Venezuelan government minister.

Communication and information minister Jorge Rodriguez had accused Mr Moreno of lying about the number of Venezuelans that have arrived in Ecuador after fleeing the economic meltdown in their homeland.

"I listened stupefied to a president on this continent because I couldn't believe he could be such a liar," Mr Rodriguez said on Wednesday, referring to the claim that "6,000 unwell Venezuelans a day are entering Ecuador".

Ecuador said it "will not tolerate any demonstration of disrespect towards our authorities", adding however that it would continue to offer help to Venezuelans entering the country.