The Venezuelan government has declared three US diplomats persona non grata, giving them 48 hours to leave the country on charges they were recruiting college students for the protests.
The expulsion, which President Nicolas Maduro first announced Sunday, comes after the US State Department expressed concerns about rising tensions in Venezuela.
“They have been visiting universities with the pretext of granting visas,” said Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua, who often faced off against the police during his own days as a student demonstrator.
“But that is a cover for making contacts with student leaders to offer them training and financing to create youth groups that generate violence,” he told reporters.
The US State Department called the allegations “baseless and false,” adding that Washington supported free expression and peaceful assembly in Venezuela and in countries around the world.
Venezuela has routinely expelled US diplomats in recent years as the relationship between the two countries frayed during the 14-year rule of the late socialist firebrand, Hugo Chavez.
Critics dismiss such moves as theatrics used in times of national commotion to distract from more serious issues.
Venezuela's highly traded global bonds, which fluctuate sharply on civil unrest or political tension, remained near 18-month lows, though trading in US markets was generally light due to the Presidents Day holiday.
Bank of America said in a research note to clients on Monday that the protests were unlikely to result in a change of government, recommending that investors take advantage of attractive yields on bonds that mature in coming years.