US pulls all staff from Venezuela as Maduro blames blackout on 'demonic' Trump plot
The United States has said it will withdraw all remaining diplomatic staff from Venezuela as Nicolás Maduro accused Donald Trump of masterminding a “demonic” plot to force him from power by crippling the country’s electricity system with an imperialist “electromagnetic attack”.
The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, announced the decision to vacate the US embassy in the crisis-stricken country’s capital, Caracas, late on Monday.
“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 tweeted.
Maduro’s political foes and many specialists believe the calamitous nationwide blackout that struck last Thursday – and has yet to be resolved – is the result of years of mismanagement, corruption and incompetence.
“We are in the middle of a catastrophe that is not the result of a hurricane, that is not the result of a tsunami,” Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader battling to topple Maduro, told CNN on Sunday. “It’s the product of the inefficiency, the incapability, the corruption of a regime that doesn’t care about the lives of Venezuelans.”
But in a televised nationwide address on Monday night Maduro pointed the finger of blame at the White House in what critics condemned as a cynical attempt to deflect criticism of his regime’s responsibility.
“The United States’ imperialist government ordered this attack,” Maduro claimed in his 35-minute speech, only his second significant intervention since the crisis began last week.
“They came with a strategy of war of the kind that only these criminals – who have been to war and have destroyed the people of Iraq, of Libya, of Afghanistan and of Syria – think up.”
Maduro alleged the US had conducted the attack – in league with “puppets and clowns” from the Venezuelan opposition – in order to create “a state of despair, of widespread want and of conflict” that would justify a foreign intervention and Venezuela’s military occupation.