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US Diplomats Pack Up and Leave Venezuela

15 March 2019

President Nicolás Maduro said in a speech this week that he hoped the US and Venezuelan governments could continue negotiations to set up interest sections in each other's capital - even as he blamed Washington for a massive five-day blackout that began Thursday and brought the South American country to a virtual halt.

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 US -backed sabotage but critics dismissed as the result of incompetence.

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

A retailers' association said some 500 stores in that city were pillaged during the power cut. While Maduro pointed the finger at Washington, critics have long blamed the government for failing to maintain the power grid. The subway began operating in the capital, Caracas, though not all of its stations were open. US officials and Guaido said the allegation is absurd and that government corruption and mismanagement caused the infrastructure collapse in a country already suffering hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods.

The US has already imposed sanctions created to choke off Venezuelan oil sales, the lifeblood of the leftist government in Caracas.

The United States is considering imposing financial sanctions that could prohibit Visa Inc, Mastercard Inc and other financial institutions from processing transactions in Venezuela, a senior Trump administration official said on Thursday.

He gave no details
He gave no details

The United States would use its authorities to exempt everyday Venezuelans from making transactions to buy food and medicine. Russian Federation is an ally of Maduro, but its oil interests in Venezuela have been jeopardized since the Trump administration hit PDVSA with sanctions in January.

The situation has worsened with successive rounds of USA sanctions against Maduro's government, including steps that have severely curbed its oil exports.

The United States has withdrawn all remaining diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Caracas as the crisis in Venezuela deepens.

At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino revealed the government has revoked hundred of visas from "Maduro-aligned" Venezuelans over the last four days. Since Monday, the US has revoked 340 visas, 107 of which were for Venezuelan diplomats and their families, according to Palladino.

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US Diplomats Pack Up and Leave Venezuela