All US diplomats have left Venezuela: Mike Pompeo

Remigio Civitarese
Marzo 14, 2019

"I know it is a hard moment for them", U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said of the departing diplomats.

A technical problem with transmission lines linking the Guri hydroelectric plant in southeastern Venezuela to the national power grid likely caused the blackout, experts said. "We look forward to resuming our presence once the transition to democracy begins", Pompeo said in a statement.

The U.S. official spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Maduro, who retains control of the military and other state institutions as well as the backing of Russian Federation and China, has blamed Washington for his nation's economic turmoil and denounced opposition leader Juan Guaido as a puppet of the United States.

James Story, who was the top-ranking USA diplomat in Venezuela, said in a video message that most Venezuelans don't support Maduro and that the government had used "the threat of armed gangs" against its people.

Earlier this week, Maduro praised Story for his professional conduct.

"Today, all United States diplomats remaining in Venezuela departed the country".

Meanwhile, businesses re-opened and public transportation resumed in parts of Venezuela where power has been restored, ending almost a week of the country's worst blackouts.

Some neighborhoods in the northwestern city of Maracaibo, where massive looting occurred during the outages, still didn't have power.

The country began returning to normal Thursday following a near-total weeklong blackout that the government has blamed on what it calls sabotage encouraged by the US. USA officials and Guaido said the allegation is absurd and that government corruption and mismanagement caused the infrastructure collapse in a country already suffering hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods.

The United States is preparing to withdraw its remaining diplomats from Venezuela, an effort that will not involve the U.S. military, after Maduro on Wednesday (AEDT) ordered them to leave within 72 hours. He did not clarify what he meant by that remark.

Maduro has blamed Washington for organising what he said was a sophisticated cyber attack on Venezuela's hydroelectric power operations.

The move has put Venezuela at the heart of a geopolitical tussle, with the United States leading most Western nations in recognising Guaidó as the legitimate head of state, while Russia, China and others support Maduro.

The US has already imposed sanctions created to choke off Venezuelan oil sales, the lifeblood of the leftist government in Caracas.

More than 600 visas have been revoked since late 2018 as part of US efforts to pressure Maduro's government, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said.

Maduro called for support from allies including Russian Federation and China as well as the United Nations in investigating the U.S. "cyber attack" he said was responsible for the blackout. Venezuela later allowed a skeletal staff to remain at the hilltop U.S. Embassy until Thursday's withdrawal.

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