All American diplomats have left Venezuela, says 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

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A general view of the entrance of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela March 14, 2019. He added, the US will resume its presence in the country "once the transition to democracy begins", though he declined to offer a specific timeline.

Pompeo released a video statement directly to the Venezuelan people on Thursday to reassure them of USA support in the wake of the withdrawal.

"Today, all US diplomats remaining in Venezuela departed the country", he said in a statement, adding that it is "a hard moment for them".

USA diplomats began the exodus from the Caracas, Venezuela, embassy earlier this week. The U.S. flag outside the embassy had been taken down.

Pompeo added that the United States government "remains firm in its resolve and support for the people of Venezuela and interim President Juan Guaido".

Venezuela is gripped by an acute economic crisis that has fueled the rise of opposition leader Juan Guaido, the national assembly speaker who in late January declared himself to be the interim leader.

Pompeo addressed the Venezuelan people directly in a video tweet, saying the U.S.is eager to provide them desperately needed humanitarian assistance, including food and medicine.

Maduro blamed the blackouts on alleged sabotage engineered by the US and the Venezuelan opposition. Since Monday, the US has revoked 340 visas, 107 of which were for Venezuelan diplomats and their families, according to Palladino.

Guaido denied the allegations at an anti-Maduro protest Tuesday.

Maduro's government in January cut ties with the US over its recognition of Guaido as Venezuela's rightful leader, a stand taken by about 50 other countries that contend Maduro's re-election a year ago was rigged and that he has no legitimacy.

The State Department had already announced that it would withdraw its remaining diplomatic staff from Venezuela this week.

The move has put Venezuela at the heart of a geopolitical tussle, with the United States leading most Western nations in recognizing Guaido as the legitimate head of state, while Russia, China and others support Maduro.

Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed.

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