US withdrawing all of its diplomats from Venezuela amid crisis
Mike Pompeo announced the decision late on Monday as the country struggles to restore electricity
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that the United States is withdrawing the last of its embassy staff from Venezuela, blaming the ongoing crisis in the South American country.
Mr Pompeo announced the decision late on Monday as Venezuela struggles to restore electricity following four days of blackouts around the country and a deepening political crisis.
The US has led an international effort to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro and replace him with opposition leader Juan Guaido, who vows to hold new a presidential election.
Mr Guaido has been recognised as interim president by some 50 countries, while Mr Maduro – who ordered US diplomats to leave the country in late January, but then backed off – maintains support from countries such as China, Russia and Cuba.
Mr Pompeo said the remaining diplomats in Venezuela will be removed by the end of the week.
The top US diplomat took aim at Cuba and Russia on Monday for their support of Mr Maduro, who Washington wants removed from power.
The Secretary of State rejected Mr Maduro's assertion that the US was responsible for a widespread blackout, instead pointing the finger at the socialist nature of the Venezuelan leader's government.
"Nicolas Maduro promised Venezuelans a better life and a socialist paradise. He delivered on the socialism part, which has proved, time and time again, is a recipe for economic ruin," Mr Pompeo said. "The paradise part? Not so much."
While he did not announce new measures against Mr Maduro or in support of opposition leader Juan Guaido, Mr Pompeo did take aim at the "central role Cuba and Russia have played and continue to play in undermining the democratic dreams of the Venezuelan people and their welfare".
"Cuba is the true imperialist power in Venezuela," Mr Pompeo said, denouncing the "physical protection and other critical material and political support to Maduro and to those around him".
"When there is no electricity, thank the marvels of modern Cuban-led engineering," he said. "When there is no water, thank the excellent hydrologists from Cuba.
"When there is no food, thank the Cuban communist overlords."
Mr Pompeo also took aim at Moscow, saying that "Russia too has created this crisis," including by supplying arms to Venezuela.
He acknowledged that "we always wish things could go faster" in Venezuela, but said that he is "very confident the tide is moving in the direction of the Venezuelan people and will continue to do so".
Updated: March 12, 2019 09:52 AM