All US diplomats have left Venezuela: Mike Pompeo

26 January 2019 Venezuela Caracas Numerous demonstrators raise their hands in support of the self-proclaimed interim president Guaido at a rally of the opposition in the Venezuelan capital

Venezuela plunged into a deep political crisis in January when Juan Guaido, head of the opposition-controlled congress, invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing Maduro's 2018 re-election was not legitimate.

Pompeo tweeted earlier this week that the diplomats would be withdrawn because they had become a "constraint" on USA policy.

The giant USA flag was lowered at the sprawling hillside embassy shortly before the roughly 20 diplomatic personnel left for the airport Thursday morning. He said staffers look forward to resuming their presence in Venezuela "once the transition to democracy begins".

Pompeo said the diplomatic staff would continue from outside Venezuela to work for its future, help manage the flow of humanitarian assistance and support those "bravely resisting tyranny".

Maduro blamed the blackouts on alleged sabotage engineered by the US and the Venezuelan opposition.

The Venezuelan government said on Tuesday that some electricity has returned in some areas, Associated Press reports.

The Venezuelan government disputed Pompeo's account, saying it had instructed the United States diplomats to leave.

The Venezuelan authorities have accused the United States of waging a cyberattack against the hydroelectric power plant, the claim denied by Washington. The United States has imposed sanctions on Venezuela's oil industry as well as individuals linked to Maduro's government, and U.S. President Donald Trump has said "all options are on the table" in his administration's support for Guaido. Russian Federation is an ally of Maduro, but its oil interests in Venezuela have been jeopardized since the Trump administration hit PDVSA with sanctions in January.

Also Thursday, the State Department confirmed it has revoked 340 US visas from Venezuelans, including more than 100 former diplomats and their families. Most countries in Europe and Latin America have followed suit.

The New York Times on Thursday quoted Palladino saying, "We hold former President Maduro and those surrounding him fully responsible for the safety and welfare of interim president Juan Guaido and his family".

Bolivia's leftist President Evo Morales, a supporter of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, said on Friday that European nations should support a dialogue within the country.

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