USA to pull all remaining diplomatic staff from Venezuela

USA to pull all remaining diplomatic staff from Venezuela

The blackout has been ongoing in Venezuela for nearly a week following an incident at a major hydroelectric power plant, Guri, which national electricity supplier Corpoelec called "sabotage". On Monday, schools and businesses were closed, long lines of cars waited at the few gasoline stations with electricity and hospitals cared for many patients without power.

The United States will withdraw all remaining diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Caracas as the crisis in Venezuela deepens, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late Monday. Generators have alleviated conditions for some of the critically ill.

Juan Guaido, president of Venezuela's National Assembly, holds a copy of Venezuelan constitution during a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government and to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the end of the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 23, 2019.

Venezuela later retreated and allowed a skeletal staff to remain at the hilltop U.S. Embassy in Caracas as the two countries attempted - in vain - to negotiate an agreement to allow some sort of representation.

Mr Guaido, who heads the opposition-controlled congress, and the United States say Mr 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. "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. Guaido tweeted about reports of looting in some cities, but details were hard to confirm.

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

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Guaido has declared himself interim president and demands new elections, arguing that President Nicolas Maduro's re-election past year was invalid. Of Venezuela's close ties with Russia, Pompeo called them "a match made in hell".

Adding to tension over Venezuela's fate, the last US diplomats in Venezuela prepared to head home as relations between the United States and Maduro deteriorated further.

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

Upon recognizing Guaido in January, Maduro ordered every USA diplomat to leave Venezuela, but the socialist leader later backtracked and allowed them to remain.

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