State Department to withdraw all remaining staff from Venezuela

Erika Holt
March 13, 2019

On Tuesday, the foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, ordered United States diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours. Maduro's claims that the USA sabotaged the power grid with a "cyberattack" are an attempt to divert attention from the government's own failings.

The U.S. and more than 50 governments recognize Guaido as interim president and say Maduro wasn't legitimately re-elected past year because opposition candidates weren't permitted to run. Most countries in Europe and Latin America have followed suit.

But almost two months after casting Maduro as no longer legitimate, the socialist leader remains in power, backed by allies Cuba and Russian Federation.

Venezuela's chief prosecutor has asked the country's supreme court to open an investigation into opposition leader Juan Guaidó for alleged involvement in the "sabotage" of the country's power grid. But anecdotal reports indicated continuing outages for many Venezuelans, who were already suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine. I'm going to call him out by name: "Maduro!" he shouted.

But power was still out in parts of the capital of Caracas and the western region near the border with Colombia. "This is outrageous", added Ferrera, who said she feared many might accept Maduro's version because the blackout had knocked out communication systems across the country, giving his administration a monopoly on information.

"That is why we have the decree", said Guaido.

He added: "The electric war announced and directed by U.S. imperialism against our people will be defeated".

Julio Castro, of nongovernmental organisation Doctors for Health, said on Twitter on Monday night that 24 people had died in public hospitals since the start of the blackout.

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Maduro alleged the USA had conducted the attack - in league with "puppets and clowns" from the Venezuelan opposition - to create "a state of despair, of widespread want and of conflict" that would justify a foreign intervention.

Both Guaido's escalated rhetoric and Pompeo's move came days before a planned rally outside the White House, where thousands of Americans are expected to protest a potential military invasion and regime change in Venezuela.

The decision also comes amid growing concern that American diplomats could become a pawn in the battle with President Nicolas Maduro as the US tries to push him from power.

In his capacity as interim president, he ordered Venezuela's armed forces to protect workers of state electricity company Corpoelec.

The United States will pull out its remaining diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced late Monday.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a broadcast at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela March 11, 2019. Venezuela then broke off diplomatic relations in response.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday the Spanish embassy in Caracas is in contact with the family of reporter and activist Luis Carlos Diaz.

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