US Diplomats Leave Venezuela 'For The Time Being'

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The Venezuelan National Assembly, dominated by the opposition, has declared a state of alarm over the blackout that the Maduro government blamed on a USA cyber-attack and that plunged the struggling country into darkness and chaos for five days.

A convoy was seen leaving the U.S. Embassy in Caracas on Thursday morning, and the American flag was no longer flying outside the embassy.

James Story, who was the top-ranking USA diplomat in Venezuela, said in a video message that most Venezuelans don't support Maduro and that the government had used "the threat of armed gangs" against its people.

All United States diplomats remaining in Venezuela left the country on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, amid a political crisis over the legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro's 2018 re-election.

"Today, all USA diplomats remaining in Venezuela departed the country", he said in a statement, adding that it is "a hard moment for them". "We look forward to resuming our presence once the transition to democracy begins".

"They are fully dedicated to our mission of supporting the Venezuelan people's aspirations to live in a democracy and build a better future for their families", he added.

More than 600 visas have been revoked since late 2018 as part of US efforts to pressure Maduro's government, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said.

He gave no details
He gave no details

Palladino also warned followers of the embattled Nicolas Maduro not to harass US -backed leader Juan Guaido.

An employee uses his mobile phone torch to help a customer on 10 March 2019, during the third day of a massive power outage which has left Venezuelans without communications, electricity and water.

The United States is one of about 50 countries that have thrown their support behind opposition leader Guaido, who has announced himself "interim president" after last year's disputed election. Since Monday, the USA has revoked 340 visas, 107 of which were for Venezuelan diplomats and their families, according to Palladino.

"I congratulate him for the work he did", Maduro said in a speech Tuesday night.

The country began returning to normal on Thursday following a near-total weeklong blackout that the government has blamed on what it calls sabotage encouraged by the US.

"The goal of these sanctions is to continue to deprive the illegitimate Maduro regime of access to funds and deny their ability to continue stealing from the Venezuelan people", the official said. "The whole world knows who the saboteur is", he said.

Bolivia's left-wing president on Thursday compared Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to an erstwhile colonial viceroy and spoke out against any military intervention in the troubled country.

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