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

The American flag flying outside the U.S. Embassy in the Venezuelan capital is lowered as the last remaining diplomats leave the country.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday announced that all remaining US diplomats have left Venezuela "for the time being", as relations between the two countries continue to deteriorate. He said staffers look forward to resuming their presence in Venezuela "once the transition to democracy begins". Venezuela later allowed a skeletal staff to remain at the hilltop U.S. Embassy until Thursday's withdrawal.

"U.S. diplomats will now continue that mission from other locations where they will continue to help manage the flow of humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people and support the democratic actors bravely resisting tyranny", Pompeo said.

Pompeo tweeted earlier in the week that the USA diplomats were being withdrawn because their continued presence in Caracas had become a "constraint" on US policy. Despite this, he said the USA will continue to stand with self-proclaimed interim President Juan Guaido.

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A convoy was seen leaving the USA embassy in Caracas on Thursday morning and the American flag was no longer flying outside. Palladino urged any USA citizens left in Venezuela to leave.

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The giant US flag was lowered at the sprawling hillside embassy shortly before the roughly 20 diplomatic personnel left for the airport Thursday morning.

US diplomats began the exodus from the Caracas, Venezuela, embassy earlier this week.

He said the US remains committed to supporting opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has declared himself interim president and is trying to oust Maduro and hold what he says would be free and fair elections. Maduro, the incumbent president who is hanging on to power despite shortages of food, water and electricity, says he is the victim of a coup plot by the United States. Meanwhile, Venezuela's attorney general Tarek William Saab announced on Tuesday that he had launched an investigation into opposition leader Juan Guaidó over suspicions that he had been involved in the power blackout. "The whole world knows who the saboteur is", he said.

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.

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