Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the US will pull all remaining personnel from its embassy in Venezuela’s capital, adding that the presence of diplomatic staff “has become a constraint on US policy.”
Earlier, Pompeo blasted Russia and Cuba for their continued support of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, accusing them of keeping his regime afloat despite the will of the country’s people.
In a hastily arranged news conference on Monday, Pompeo dispensed with diplomatic language in referring to Maduro’s regime. He criticized “Cuban Communist overlords” and the “deeply corrupt ruling class” protecting Maduro. Of Venezuela’s close ties with Russia, Pompeo called them “a match made in hell.”
He didn’t single out China, which has loaned Venezuela billions of dollars backed by oil but has been loath to lay out fresh money and has been less vocal in defending Maduro.
The remarks were the latest effort by President Donald Trump’s administration to coalesce support around Juan Guaido, the National Assembly leader, in the weeks since he declared himself Venezuela’s interim president in late January. Despite stitching together some 50 countries to support Guaido, the US has so far been unable to get Maduro to leave or persuade the country’s military to abandon him.
“Do not be the economic lifeline for the Maduro regime,” Pompeo said. He called Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA “a personal ATM for the Maduro regime and Russian oligarchs and kleptocrats.”
Pompeo sought to counter claims that the chief US concern is Venezuela’s oil, and argued again that Maduro’s grip on power was weakening as the country continues to suffer through extended power and water shortages. “I’m very confident that the tide is moving in the direction of the Venezuelan people,” Pompeo said. “The circle is tightening.”