The United States has withdrawn all remaining diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Caracas as the crisis in Venezuela deepens.
“Today, all US diplomats remaining in Venezuela departed the country. I know it is a difficult moment for them,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Thursday.
He said the US remains committed to supporting opposition leader Juan Guaido, who wants to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and hold elections.
“US diplomats will now continue that mission from other locations where they will continue to help manage the flow of humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people and support the democratic actors bravely resisting tyranny,” Pompeo said.
A convoy was seen leaving the US embassy in Caracas on Thursday morning and the American flag was no longer flying outside.
Pompeo tweeted earlier this week that the diplomats would be withdrawn because they had become a “constraint” on US policy.
The Venezuelan government disputed Pompeo’s account, saying it had instructed the US diplomats to leave.
Since January, the US, Canada and several European countries have called on Maduro to step down.
They and others now recognise Guaido, the leader of the country’s opposition-controlled legislative body, as Venezuela’s rightful interim president.
Maduro, however, maintains the backing of some Latin American countries, as well as Russia, China and Turkey.