Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that all remaining staff at the U.S. embassy in Venezuela would be withdrawn, as the country's political and economic crisis deepens.
The move comes as Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, suffered a fifth day without electricity — a power outage President Nicolas Maduro has blamed on “sabotage” by opposition leader Juan Guaido, who he’s accused of acting at the behest of the U.S.
"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," Pompeo said via Twitter late Monday. He added that U.S. personnel would be out of the country by the weekend.
Washington is part of an international push to remove Maduro and install Guaido as interim president pending fresh elections. Much of the international community backs the move, however Maduro retains the support of China, Cuba and Russia.
Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations with the U.S. in late January after Trump declared his backing for Guiado. Trump subsequently said “all options” were open to remove Maduro — including military intervention.
The State Department removed all non-essential staff from the embassy in Caracas in January.
Earlier Monday, Pompeo attacked Maduro’s claim that the U.S. was to blame for the blackout.
"Nicolas Maduro promised Venezuelans a better life and a socialist paradise,” he said. “He delivered on the socialism part, which has proved, time and time again, is a recipe for economic ruin. The paradise part? Not so much."
Guaido launched a similar attack on Maduro over the weekend, saying the blackout was a result of corruption and mismanagement.
“We are in the middle of a catastrophe that is not the result of a hurricane, that is not the result of a tsunami,” he told CNN. “It’s the product of the inefficiency, the incapability, the corruption of a regime that doesn’t care about the lives of Venezuelans.”
Maduro hit back in a televised address Monday, blaming Trump for unleashing a “demonic” plot to oust him from power with an “electromagnetic attack.”
Cover image: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a news conference to talk about the dire economic and political situation in Venezuela at the Harry S. Truman State Department headquarters March 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)