CARACAS, Venezuela — President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday ordered all of Venezuela’s diplomats home from the United States and defiantly closed the country’s embassy as relations between the two nations rapidly collapsed.

Maduro warned that if U.S. officials “have any sense” they will pull out their own diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, rather than defying his order for them to leave.

“They believe they have a colonial hold in Venezuela, where they decide what they want to do,” Maduro said in an address broadcast live on state TV. “You must fulfill my order from the government of Venezuela.”

Tensions have soared between the two nations since the Trump administration recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido, who claimed Wednesday to hold the presidency and vowed to remove Maduro, calling him a “dictator.”

Maduro retaliated by severing relations with the U.S. and giving American diplomats 72 hours to leave Venezuela. However, Washington said it would ignore the order after Guaido issued his own statement urging foreign embassies to disavow Maduro’s orders and keep their diplomats in the country.

All eyes have been on the military, a traditional arbiter of political disputes in Venezuela, as a critical indicator of whether the opposition will succeed in establishing a new government.

Venezuela’s top military brass pledged their unwavering support to Maduro, delivering vows of loyalty earlier Thursday before rows of green-uniformed officers on state television.

A half-dozen generals belonging largely to district commands and with direct control over thousands of troops joined Maduro in accusing the United States of meddling in Venezuela’s affairs and said they would uphold the socialist leader’s rule.

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, a key Maduro ally, delivered his own proclamation, dismissing efforts to install a “de-facto parallel government” as tantamount to a coup.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.