Last remaining U.S. diplomats leave Venezuela

Cheryl Sanders
March 16, 2019

The last remaining US diplomats in Caracas have left Venezuela "for the time being", Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday shortly after they and their Marine guards boarded a flight for the United States.

That could explain why, instead of dispatching crews to fix the problem, France24 reports that Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro is dispatching prosecutors to find and charge opposition leader Juan Guaido with sabotaging the country's grid system by causing a major explosion at the Guiado dam.

Pompeo explained the presence of diplomats in Venezuela at this time has put constraints on US policy.

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.

The U.S. flag outside the embassy had been taken down. "We look forward to resuming our presence once the transition to democracy begins", Pompeo said in a statement. Maduro, the incumbent president who is hanging on to power despite shortages of food, water and electricity, says he is the victim of a coup plot by the United States.

Pompeo said the diplomatic staff would continue from outside Venezuela to work for its future, help manage the flow of humanitarian assistance and support those "bravely resisting tyranny".

Power was restored Thursday after a weeklong blackout that Maduro blamed on the United States.

The Venezuelan government disputed Pompeo's account, saying it had instructed the USA diplomats to leave. Russian Federation is an ally of Maduro, but its oil interests in Venezuela have been jeopardized since the Trump administration hit PDVSA with sanctions in January. Most countries in Europe and Latin America have followed suit. Since Monday, the USA has revoked 340 visas, 107 of which were for Venezuelan diplomats and their families, according to Palladino.

Since January, the US, Canada and several European countries have called on Maduro to step down.

Pompeo released a video statement directly to the Venezuelan people on Thursday to reassure them of US support in the wake of the withdrawal.

Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed.

Other reports by iNewsToday