Concerns over the Trump administration's increasingly hostile policy in Venezuela grew Tuesday after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the U.S. was withdrawing all diplomatic personnel from the country.
Pompeo cited the "deteriorating situation" in Venezuela that escalated in January after the U.S. recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as "interim president," rebuking President Nicolas Maduro and coordinating efforts to overthrow the elected government.
— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) March 12, 2019
The presence of embassy staff in Venezuela is a "constraint" on US policy? That sounds very regime changey to me. Buckle up just in case. pic.twitter.com/y1ckutYKG2
— HawaiiDelilah™ (@HawaiiDelilah) March 12, 2019
The US *intentionally created* that "deteriorating situation" in Venezuela, which is why it is withdrawing its embassy staff. This is a criminal US war of aggression, suffocating and strangling Venezuela and its people to try to make their country collapsehttps://t.co/zsieeaJh4U
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) March 12, 2019
Meanwhile, Guaidó told Fox Business Network on Monday that he plans to invoke Venezuela's constitutional Article 187, which he claimed "allows for an outside country to cooperate or to assist Venezuela in this sense."
"As we've stated in this article of our Constitution, which empowers me, as the person in charge, to employ whatever measures are necessary to enact this cooperation and this assistance for Venezuela," Guaidó told "Trish Regan Primetime."
Both Guaido's escalated rhetoric and Pompeo's move came days before a planned rally outside the White House, where thousands of Americans are expected to protest a potential military invasion and regime change in Venezuela.
Most recently, a power outage that has gone on for five days has led the U.S. to accuse Maduro of failing to run his country effectively—even amid reports in the New York Times that the sanctions the U.S. has imposed in recent weeks are to blame for the blackouts, as Venezuela's access to fuel for power plant operations has been cut off.
"Maduro, along with Minister of Communication Jorge Rodriguez, continue to provide evidence that Pompeo and the U.S. authorities were the masterminds behind this very 'situation', pulling off a cyber attack on the state electric company’s computer system at the El Guri hydroelectric plant resulting in the near nationwide power outage," reported teleSUR English Tuesday.
The U.S. reduced its diplomatic staff in Caracas in January after recognizing Guaido. Since then, relations between the two countries have grown increasingly strained and the Trump administration has repeatedly falsely blamed Maduro for the "deteriorating situation"—accusing him of burning aid trucks which were actually set ablaze by Guaido's supporters and calling him a "tyrant" for blocking so-called "humanitarian aid."
Over the fierce objections of Maduro, the Trump administration sent an aid convoy in mid-February, amounting to $20 million in food and medicine—a fraction of the amount that U.S.-imposed sanctions have cost the country since 2017, contributing to the economic crisis there.
Along with Maduro, the International Committee of the Red Cross denounced the shipment, saying the so-called aid appeared to be politically motivated amid the two countries' strained relations.