U.S. withdrawing last of its embassy personnel from Venezuela
The United States announced late Monday that it was pulling the remaining staff from its embassy in Venezuela, citing the deteriorating situation in the South American nation.
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo announced the decision as Venezuela struggled to restore electricity following four days of blackouts around the country and a deepening political crisis.
The U.S. has led an international effort to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro and replace him with opposition leader Juan Guaido, who vows to hold a new presidential election. Guaido is backed by some 50 countries, while Maduro maintains support from countries such as China, Russia and Cuba.
Maduro had ordered all U.S. diplomats to leave Venezuela in late January because of its support from Guaido, but he retreated and allowed them to stay. The U.S. still withdrew dependents of embassy personnel as well as some of the staff. Pompeo said the remaining diplomats would be out of Venezuela by the end of the week.
The move came after another day of chaos as power outages that began Thursday evening continued to cause problems for Venezuelans, leaving them with little power, water and communications.
People converged on a polluted river to fill water bottles in Caracas, and scattered protests erupted in several cities
On Monday, schools and businesses were closed, long lines of cars waited at the few gasoline stations with electricity and hospitals cared for many patients without power. Generators have alleviated conditions for some of the critically ill.
Maduro said on national television Monday night that progress had been made in restoring power. He also said two people who were allegedly trying to sabotage power facilities were captured and were providing information to authorities, though he gave no details.
Guaido, who heads the opposition-controlled congress, and the United States say Maduro’s claims that the U.S. sabotaged the power grid with a cyberattack are an attempt to divert attention from the government’s own failings.
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