The U.S. State Department announced earlier this week it would be evacuating the remainder of its embassy staff still stationed in Caracas, Venezuela. This latest order comes as the political situation in the country continues to destabilize after a massive blackout crippled several urban areas throughout the South American nation.
“Like the January 24 decision to withdraw all dependents and reduce embassy staff to a minimum, 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,” the State Department said via a press release on Monday.
Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, blamed the power outages on the United States, claiming the U.S. “sabotaged” the country’s electrical infrastructure. The U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela, Elliot Abrams, emphatically disputed Maduro’s claim, telling one reporter who asked if the U.S. was involved in the blackouts: “No. That’s an easy one.”
Maduro’s opposition, Juan Guaido, laid the responsibility for the blackouts on years of neglect by the Maduro regime. Guaido declared himself the country’s legitimate ruler earlier this year, and appointed himself the interm president. The United States, Canada, and several other countries throughout the world recognize Guaido as the true president of Venezuela, and have been exerting pressure on Maduro to resign.
The State Department also announced any U.S. citizens currently in Venezuela should “strongly consider” returning home, according to a report from USA Today. The agency is also working to facilitate travel arrangements for Americans currently in Caracas.
“We’re pursuing all possible options to secure travel options for U.S. citizens,” said the State Department’s deputy spokesman Robert Palladino while addressing the press earlier this week.
After announcing the withdrawal of the remaining diplomats, the State Department slapped more sanctions on the Maduro regime, this time targeting a bank operated by both Venezuela and Russia. According to the State Department, the bank — Evrofinance Mosnarbank — was used by Maduro and his cronies to funnel money from Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm into personal accounts.
The statement from the State Department said:
Maduro’s enablers, including those in Russia, are facilitating the continued theft of Venezuela’s assets, allowing members of the illegitimate Maduro regime to line their pockets at the expense of the Venezuelan people.”
“While the illegitimate Maduro regime looks for illicit channels like Evrofinance Mosnarbank to facilitate financial support to state-owned oil company PDVSA, which it then pockets for personal gain, the Venezuelan people are starving and sitting in the dark as their electrical system fails.”