U.S. to withdraw embassy personnel from Venezuela

By Darryl Coote
U.S. to withdraw embassy personnel from Venezuela
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blamed Cuba and Russia for stifling democracy in Venezula. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

March 12 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Tuesday the withdrawal of all remaining American personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela, citing the deteriorating political situation in the South American country.

"The U.S. will withdraw all remaining personnel from [the U.S. embassy in Venezuela] this week," Pompeo said in a tweet. "This decision reflects the deteriorating situation in Venezuela as well as the conclusion that the presence of U.S. diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on U.S. policy."


The notice of withdrawal comes as Venezuela enters its fifth day struggling with a massive power outage that has brought the capital Caracas' subway system to a standstill and has caused airlines to cancel flights, among other issues.

Earlier Monday, Pompeo held a press briefing where he accused Cuba and Russia of helping to cause the current crisis by continuing to support embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.


Pompeo said the power outage has patients dying while waiting for treatment in hospital, food rotting and telecommunication networks collapsing, all while the U.S. adversaries are undermining "the democratic dreams of the Venezuelan people and their welfare."

"When there's no electricity, thank the marvels of modern Cuban-led engineering. When there's no water, thank the excellent hydrologists from Cuba. When there's no food, thank the Cuban communist overlords," he said.

Cuba's influence on the country is currently so strong that many of Maduro's advisors and security officials may not be under his orders, Pompeo said.

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"Many of his personal security and closest advisors are acting not at the direction of the Venezuelan people, and frankly, perhaps not even at the direction of Maduro, but rather at the direction of the Cuban regime," he said.

Cuba's support comes from a shared ideology, while Russia has "its own reason" for destabilizing Venezuela through spreading disinformation through Russia Today and Sputnik, state-owned news organizations.

"The Kremlin is standing with its Venezuelan cronies against the will of the people of a sovereign nation to protect a Moscow-friendly regime," he said.

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On Monday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions against a bank jointly owned by Russian and Venezuelan companies for having been "a vehicle for corruption, embezzlement and money laundering [for Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro and his cronies."

Pompeo said Moscow and Havana continue to provide "political cover" for the Maduro regime while trying to persuade countries to disregard opposition leader and interim president Juan Guaido, who is supported by 54 governments, including the United States.

Meanwhile, Maduro in a televised interview Monday night blamed the power outage on the United States, The Guardian reported.

"The United States' imperialist government ordered this attack," Maduro said. "They came with a strategy of war of the kind that only these criminals -- who have been to war and have destroyed the people of Iraq, of Libya, of Afghanistan and of Syria -- think up."

Maduro has long claimed the political turmoil in his country has been caused by a U.S.-backed coup.

However, Pomeo said during the Monday press briefing that the United States has aided Venezuela to be a democratic country.


"The nations that support Maduro are, by the nature of this illegitimate regime, carrying out the very foreign interventionism of which they accuse others," he said. "Today, the United States is drawing a clear line between those who aid the forces of repression and those who give life to the Venezuelan people's democratic dreams. There is no ambiguity here about the truth. "

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