Paraguayan President Mario Abdo announced on Thursday that diplomatic relations between Asuncion and Caracus will be cut off effective immediately.
Abdo made the dramatic announcement in a televised address and on Twitter, just moments after the swearing in ceremony for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who began his second six-year term in office after securing victory in the presidential election last May.
"The government of the Republic of Paraguay, in fulfillment of its constitutional powers and national sovereignty, has decided to sever diplomatic relations with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to close our embassy there and to immediately recall Paraguayan diplomatic personnel accredited in that country," Abdo said.
Peru Withdraws Last Remaining Diplomat
Peru followed Paraguay's lead, recalling its charge d'affaires from Venezuela "for consultations" in protest Maduro's second term, which the foreign ministry deemed "illegitimate." Lima also promised to bar entry to Maduro and one hundred other Venezuelan national with links to his government, the ministry added. The charge d'affaires had been the last Peruvian diplomat in the country, with the two countries exchanging hostilities beginning in 2017, with Lima accusing Caracas of 'breaking with democratic rule' and Caracas labelling Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski an "enemy" of Venezuela, accusing him of interfering with the country's internal affairs.
Lima Group vs. Venezuela
Earlier, Hugo Saguier Caballero, Paraguay's deputy minister of foreign affairs, said that Asuncion would not recognise Maduro's new government along with the other members of the Lima Group, a group of countries formed in 2017 and consisting of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Guyana, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru whose official stated aim is to settle the Venezuelan crisis and counter alleged 'human rights violations' in the country.
President Maduro issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Lima Group on Wednesday, demanding that the countries end their interventionist policy. He also promised to take "serious and proactive measures" to protect Veneuzuela's sovereignty.
Relations between Washington and Caracus have been rocky for nearly two decades, with US-allied political forces attempting to stage a coup against President Hugo Chavez in 2002. Chavez's sucessor, Nicolas Maduro, has accused the US and its regional allies of plotting another coup, and alleged that Washington has instructed Colombia to organise his murder following a failed assassination attempt against him last August.
Venezuela, one of the world's largest oil exporters, has been facing an economic crisis which critics of the government have blamed on economic mismanagement and corruption. President Maduro has blamed the crisis in part on an "economic blockade" by the US and its allies, and accused Washington of being an oil "market manipulator."