Last U.S. diplomats leave Venezuela amid strained relations

Last U.S. diplomats leave Venezuela amid strained relations

Last U.S. diplomats leave Venezuela amid strained relations

The OPEC nation suffered its worst blackout in history last week following technical problems that the government of President Nicolas Maduro called an act of US -backed sabotage but critics dismissed as the result of incompetence.

"I know it is a hard moment for them", Pompeo said.

The giant US flag was lowered at the sprawling hillside embassy shortly before the roughly 20 diplomatic personnel left for the airport Thursday morning.

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".

He gave no details
He gave no details

While much of Latin America and Europe have thrown their weight behind Guaido with a view to forcing presidential elections in Venezuela, Maduro has the support of Russian Federation and China, major creditors and buyers of Venezuelan oil.

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

Despite the personnel evacuation, Pompeo said the Trump administration maintains its support of opposition leader Juan Guaidó and his effort to oust authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro, whom the U.S.no longer recognizes as the country's rightful leader. The government says the national power grid is functioning well and that running water has returned to most of the country, though some areas reported continuing problems.

He said "anarchy" reigned in Venezuela's second city of Maracaibo during the power outage, with "generalised looting".

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

The Venezuelan government disputed Pompeo's account, saying it had instructed the U.S. diplomats to leave. 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 would use its authorities to exempt everyday Venezuelans from making transactions to buy food and medicine.

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

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The situation has worsened with successive rounds of U.S. sanctions against Maduro's government, including steps that have severely curbed its oil exports.

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".

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