WASHINGTON: The United States will withdraw all remaining diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Caracas as the crisis in Venezuela deepens, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said.
The move worsens already tattered relations, with President Donald Trump having said he rules out no options including military intervention to oust President Nicolas Maduro as Washington monitors rapidly unfolding events in the oil-rich but crippled South American nation supported by Russia and China.
The US has already imposed sanctions designed to choke off Venezuelan oil sales, the lifeblood of the leftist government in Caracas.
Much of Venezuela has been without electricity for going on five days now due to a power outage that the government blames on what it calls sabotage encouraged by the US.
Venezuela is in the grips of 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.
More than 50 countries led by the US have endorsed him.
"This decision reflects the deteriorating situation in #Venezuela as well as the conclusion that the presence of US diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on US policy," Pompeo wrote on Twitter on Monday.
The U.S. will withdraw all remaining personnel from @usembassyve this week. This decision reflects the deteriorating situation in #Venezuela as well as the conclusion that the presence of U.S. diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on U.S. policy.— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) March 12, 2019
On January 24 the State Department ordered all non-emergency government employees to depart Venezuela and urged Americans living in the country to consider leaving.
Earlier Monday Pompeo took aim at Cuba and Russia for their support of Maduro.
He rejected Maduro's assertion that the US was responsible for the blackout, instead pointing the finger at the socialist nature of the Venezuelan government.
"Nicolas Maduro promised Venezuelans a better life and a socialist paradise. He delivered on the socialism part, which has proved, time and time again, is a recipe for economic ruin," Pompeo told journalists.
"The paradise part? Not so much."
Pompeo took aim at the "central role Cuba and Russia have played and continue to play in undermining the democratic dreams of the Venezuelan people and their welfare."
"Cuba is the true imperialist power in Venezuela," Pompeo said, denouncing the "physical protection and other critical material and political support to Maduro and to those around him."
"When there is no electricity, thank the marvels of modern Cuban-led engineering," he said.
"When there is no water, thank the excellent hydrologists from Cuba. When there is no food, thank the Cuban communist overlords."