The Trump administration recently recognized Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim leader of the South American nation after months of unrest under what some have called the dictator-like reign of official President Nicolas Maduro, who was recently reinstated in an allegedly fraudulent election.
Soon after, Maduro severed all diplomatic ties with the U.S. and ordered all American diplomats to leave the embattled country within 72 hours — a threat President Donald Trump pegged as “meaningless” before nevertheless ordering all non-emergency personnel in the country to leave the embassy and return to America.
ABC News reported that the U.S. began to withdraw those personnel and their families on Thursday, two days after Maduro demanded that all American diplomats vacate the country.
Maduro followed by announcing on Thursday “that he would pull his own diplomats from the U.S. and close the Venezuelan embassy and consulates,” according to ABC.
Non-emergency personnel withdrawn
The United States’ withdrawal from Venezuela appears to be more out of precaution than as a bow to the Maduro regime, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday is “illegitimate.”
“We therefore consider all of its declarations and actions illegitimate and invalid,” Pompeo added.
Pompeo previously warned Maduro that he could expect consequences if the safety of any Americans in Venezuela was placed under threat — and it seems the Trump admin is making good on that promise.
Support for the interim leader
President Trump issued a statement on Wednesday officially recognizing the interim presidency of Guaido, who was already the president of the opposition party-controlled National Assembly.
“In its role as the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people, the National Assembly invoked the country’s constitution to declare Nicolas Maduro illegitimate, and the office of the presidency therefore vacant,” Trump said. “The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”
Maduro had previously all but sidelined the National Assembly, arresting some opposition members and harassing others, all while the nation’s wrecked economy continued a sharp decline and the already oppressed people of Venezuela dealt with severe shortages of food and medicine.
Situation closely monitored
Of the estimated 100 to 150 American personnel assigned to the U.S. embassy in Caracas, an untold number will remain in the nation while non-essential personnel are withdrawn.
Prior to Trump’s Thursday order, embassy personnel with families had been ordered to keep their children home from school and to remain within certain neighborhoods.
ABC reported that a State Department task force has been formed to oversee the ongoing crisis, and that task force is “monitoring the security situation in real time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”