Saturday, 23 March, 2019

Last remaining US diplomats leave Venezuela

26 January 2019 Venezuela Caracas Numerous demonstrators raise their hands in support of the self-proclaimed interim president Guaido at a rally of the opposition in the Venezuelan capital Venezuela's Latest Nightmare: Crude Oil In The Tap Water
Ellis Copeland | 16 March, 2019, 09:42

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

They and others now recognise Guaido, the leader of the country's opposition-controlled legislative body, as Venezuela's rightful interim president.

"We look forward to resuming our presence once the transition to democracy begins".

A convoy was seen leaving the U.S. Embassy in Caracas on Thursday morning, and the American flag was no longer flying outside the embassy.

Pompeo said the diplomats assigned to Venezuela will continue their work "from other locations" where they will continue to work on getting humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people "and support the democratic actors bravely resisting tyranny".

The president noted that the "cyberattack against the Venezuelan electric energy system was a terror act by the U.S. government against the Venezuelan people".

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James Story, who was the top-ranking US 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.

The country began returning to normal on Thursday following a near-total weeklong blackout that the government has blamed on what it calls sabotage encouraged by the US. Maduro claims Guiado is the chief operative in a "cyberattack" by the United States that caused Venezuela's electrical grid to collapse completely.

"The United States government, at all levels, remains firm in its resolve and support for the people of Venezuela and interim President Juan Guaidó", Pompeo said in a statement. Maduro, backed by the military, refuses to hand over the government to Guaido.

The State Department had already announced that it would withdraw its remaining diplomatic staff from Venezuela this week.

Russia, China, Cuba and Mexico are among the countries that recognize Maduro as Venezuela's president. Faced with questions about the recognition amounting to only a quarter of the world's countries, the State Department has repeatedly argued that the number doesn't matter, because the countries that sided with the USA are "democracies" and that is supposed to count for more somehow.

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

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