Amid continuing unrest in Venezuela, the United States plans to remove all diplomatic personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Twitter late Monday.
“The U.S. will withdraw all remaining personnel from [the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela] this week,” Pompeo tweeted. “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.”
U.S. citizens and government personnel have been advised to avoid areas of demonstrations and large gatherings, which have taken place throughout Venezuela for weeks as President Nicolás Maduro faces pressure from a U.S.-backed coalition to step down. The U.S. and many other western countries back opposition candidate Juan Guaidó, who has been working to engender support for his claim to the presidency.
The country has been beset by a major power outage in recent days, and drivers had to wait in line for hours at the few gas stations still operating, NPR’s Philip Reeves has reported. Some Caracas neighborhoods had no functioning water pumps, and schools and public offices were closed Monday. The country suspended school and business activities Tuesday as well, Reuters reported. The majority of the country’s Internet network remained offline.
Pompeo has blamed Cuba and Russia for the blackouts. “When there is no electricity, thank the marvels of modern Cuban-led engineering,” Pompeo said at a State Department news conference Monday, according to The New York Times. “When there’s no water, thank the excellent hydrologists from Cuba. When there’s no food, thank the Cuban communist overlords.”
For his part, Maduro said the outage was an “electric coup” carried out by “criminal minds” in the U.S., CNN reported. “The imperialist government of the United States ordered this attack,” he said.