US withdraws remaining diplomatic staff from Venezuela

The US will withdraw all diplomatic staff from Venezuela this week due to the “deteriorating situation” there, the state department has announced.

In a tweet, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said having staff in Caracas had “become a constraint on US policy”.

The US ordered all non-essential staff to leave Venezuela in January amid an ongoing diplomatic crisis.

Widespread power cuts and a worsening humanitarian crisis have sparked mass protests.

BBC reported the decision to vacate the embassy came late on Monday and followed critical comments Mr Pompeo made to reporters about Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Relations between the two countries have plummeted in recent months.

US President Donald Trump backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president after he declared himself an interim leader on 23 January. Venezuela then broke off diplomatic relations in response.

Mr Maduro gave US diplomats 72 hours to leave the country but the US said the “former president” no longer had the authority to order them out.

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“Nicolás Maduro promised Venezuelans a better life in a socialist paradise,” Mr Pompeo said on Monday. “He delivered on the socialism part the paradise part? Not so much.”

But in a televised address, Mr Maduro blamed the continuing power cuts on foreign sabotage.

“The United States’ imperialist government ordered this attack,” he said, without offering evidence.

Much of Venezuela has been without power since last Thursday. The outage was reportedly caused by problems at the Guri hydroelectric plant in Bolívar state one of the largest such facilities in Latin America.

Venezuela depends on its vast hydroelectric infrastructure, rather than its oil reserves, for its domestic electricity supply.

But decades of underinvestment have damaged the major dams, and sporadic blackouts are commonplace.

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