Pompeo says all U.S. diplomats have left Venezuela

All U.S. diplomats remaining in Venezuela had left the country on Thursday, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said, amid a political crisis over the legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro’s 2018 re-election.

“U.S. 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 also to support the democratic actors bravely resisting tyranny,” Pompeo said in a statement.

A U.S. official said the diplomats were flown out in a civilian charter aircraft.

The State Department had already announced that it would withdraw its remaining diplomatic staff from Venezuela this week.

Washington has taken the lead in recognising Juan Guaido, the 35-year-old Congress chief, who declared himself interim president in January, calling Maduro’s 2018 re-election a fraud.

Most countries in Europe and Latin America have followed suit while Russia, China and others support Maduro.

In another development, four people were killed and at least 300 were detained in association with protests and looting that took place during Venezuela’s nationwide blackout, rights groups said on Thursday.

Venezuela suffered its worst blackout in history last week following technical problems that President Nicolas Maduro called an act of U.S.-backed sabotage but critics dismissed as the result of incompetence.

Rights groups Provea and the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict said via Twitter that three people were killed in the central state of Lara and one person was killed in the western state of Zulia.

The cause of the deaths was unclear.

Alfredo Romero of rights group, Foro Penal, said at a news conference that 124 people had been detained in protests over public services since the March 8 blackout and that another 200 were arrested over looting.

The Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Power has returned to many parts of Venezuela, though service has not been fully restored to scattered areas of the capital Caracas and much of the western region.

Venezuela plunged into a deep political crisis in January when Guaido, head of the opposition-controlled congress, invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency.

China offers to help Venezuela restore power.

Guaido is scheduled to join a meeting of local residents in the El Hatillo district of the capital of Caracas on Thursday.

The blackout that began a week ago left hospitals struggling to keep equipment running, and food rotted in the tropical heat.

The Non-Governmental Organisation, Doctors for Health, said 26 people died in public hospitals during the blackout.

The western state of Zulia suffered intense looting that hit some 350 businesses.

Reuters/NAN