Last U.S. diplomats leave Venezuela amid strained relations

China offers Venezuela help to restore power

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

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

The OPEC nation suffered its worst blackout in history last week following technical problems that the government of President Nicolas Maduro called an act of USA -backed sabotage but critics dismissed as the result of incompetence.

The United States has withdrawn all remaining diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Caracas as the crisis in Venezuela deepens, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday.

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

In his statement, Pompeo praised the diplomats on an emotional day as they abandoned the embassy. "We look forward to resuming our presence once the transition to democracy begins".

He gave no details
He gave no details

Pompeo said the diplomats assigned to Venezuela will continue their work "from other locations" where they will continue to work on getting humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people "and support the democratic actors bravely resisting tyranny".

More than 600 visas have been revoked since late 2018 as part of USA efforts to pressure Maduro's government, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said. Palladino urged any USA citizens left in Venezuela to leave. 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.

The worsening situation has bolstered Juan Guaido, an opposition leader whose claim to be Venezuela's interim president is backed by the United States and 50 other countries.

More than 300 people were arrested for protesting and looting during an unprecedented weeklong blackout across Venezuela, an NGO for detainees critical of President Nicolas Maduro's government said on Thursday.

Venezuela's pro-Maduro prosecutor's office has hit back with a criminal investigation against Guaido for "sabotage", alleging he had a hand in the blackout. But he was remarkably complimentary of the charge d'affaires, James "Jimmy" Story, whom he described as professional, though he said they had not met.

Maduro tried Tuesday to send a group of his relatives to Colombia, but Colombian authorities stopped them at the border, saying they do not recognize Maduro as president and will now allow his family to flee the discomfort suffered by other Venezuelans.

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