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U.S. Embassy in Venezuela Is Withdrawing Its Diplomatic Workers

Category: Americas,World

The United States is withdrawing all the remaining diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, because of worsening conditions in the country, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday.

Mr. Pompeo said the move reflected the “deteriorating situation” in the country and the belief that the presence of American diplomats “has become a constraint on U.S. policy.”

Much of the country, including Caracas, has been without power for five days, with no end to the blackouts in sight. Even before the blackouts, the country was struggling with violence, food shortages and the collapse of its public health system, leaving many without access to lifesaving medical care. The blackouts worsened the situation at barely functioning hospitals, where patients begged for care.

Years of corruption, hyperinflation and a cratering economy set the table for a deeper crisis that began in January, when President Nicolás Maduro was sworn in after winning re-election. Opposition leaders refused to acknowledge the election as legitimate, and one of them, Juan Guaidó, declared himself the interim president.

The United States backed Mr. Guaidó, prompting Mr. Maduro to cut diplomatic ties and accuse the United States of orchestrating a plot to overthrow him. President Trump has exerted pressure on Mr. Maduro through sanctions, including those on a Russia-based bank that the United States said helped Mr. Maduro circumvent earlier sanctions.

The Venezuelan government has blamed the United States for the blackouts, claiming without evidence that they were the result of sabotage and cyberattacks. Outside experts have dismissed those accusations, but the true cause remains unclear.

The United States has accused Cuba and Russia of propping up Mr. Maduro, and on Monday, Mr. Pompeo blamed them for the blackouts.

“When there is no electricity, thank the marvels of modern Cuban-led engineering,” Mr. Pompeo said sarcastically. “When there’s no water, thank the excellent hydrologists from Cuba. When there’s no food, thank the Cuban communist overlords.”

Mr. Pompeo argued on Monday that support was increasing for Mr. Guaidó, who is supported by more than 50 other nations, including several of Venezuela’s neighbors.

“We wish things could go faster, but I am very confident that the tide is moving in the direction of the Venezuelan people,” Mr. Pompeo said.

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