Pompeo says all USA diplomats have left Venezuela as crisis deepens

Remigio Civitarese
Marzo 15, 2019

This Sept. 12, 2008 photo shows the USA embassy in Caracas, Venezuela. He added, the USA will resume its presence in the country "once the transition to democracy begins", though he declined to offer a specific timeline.

"US diplomats will now continue that mission from other locations where they will continue to help manage the flow of humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people and support the democratic actors bravely resisting tyranny", Pompeo said. "I know it is a hard moment for them", he said in a statement.

The Venezuelan National Assembly, dominated by the opposition, has declared a state of alarm over the blackout that the Maduro government blamed on a US cyber-attack and that plunged the struggling country into darkness and chaos for five days. The U.S. flag outside the embassy had been taken down.

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.

Guaido denied the allegations at an anti-Maduro protest Tuesday.

The move has put Venezuela at the heart of a geopolitical tussle, with the United States leading most Western nations in recognizing Guaido as the legitimate head of state, while Russia, China and others support Maduro. He did not clarify what he meant by that remark.

The Venezuelan government disputed Pompeo's account, saying it had instructed the US diplomats to leave. The United States has imposed sanctions on Venezuela's oil industry as well as individuals linked to Maduro's government, and U.S. President Donald Trump has said "all options are on the table" in his administration's support for Guaido. "It's the Maduro regime which has prevented that", he said.

More than 600 visas have been revoked since late 2018 as part of USA efforts to pressure Maduro's government, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said.

The New York Times on Thursday quoted Palladino saying, "We hold former President Maduro and those surrounding him fully responsible for the safety and welfare of interim president Juan Guaido and his family".

The United States had withdrawn most of the diplomatic staff from the embassy five weeks ago, leaving a core group behind.

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