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Escalation Fears Grow in Venezeula as Guaidó Signals Support for Foreign Intervention and US Withdraws Diplomats

Published: March 12, 2019
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Source: Common Dreams

Concerns over the Trump administration's increasingly hostile policy in Venezuela grew Tuesday after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the U.S. was withdrawing all diplomatic personnel from the country.

Pompeo cited the "deteriorating situation" in Venezuela that escalated in January after the U.S. recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as "interim president," rebuking President Nicolas Maduro and coordinating efforts to overthrow the elected government.

Meanwhile, Guaidó told Fox News on Monday that he plans to invoke Venezuela's constitutional Article 187, which he claimed "allows for an outside country to cooperate or to assist Venezuela in this sense."

"As we've stated in this article of our Constitution, which empowers me, as the person in charge, to employ whatever measures are necessary to enact this cooperation and this assistance for Venezuela," Guaidó told Fox anchor Trish Regan.

Both Guaido's escalated rhetoric and Pompeo's move came days before a planned rally outside the White House, where thousands of Americans are expected to protest a potential military invasion and regime change in Venezuela.

Most recently, a power outage that has gone on for five days has led the U.S. to accuse Maduro of failing to run his country effectively—even amid reports in the New York Times that the sanctions the U.S. has imposed in recent weeks are to blame for the blackouts, as Venezuela's access to fuel for power plant operations has been cut off.

"Maduro, along with Minister of Communication Jorge Rodriguez, continue to provide evidence that Pompeo and the U.S. authorities were the masterminds behind this very 'situation', pulling off a cyber attack on the state electric company’s computer system at the El Guri hydroelectric plant resulting in the near nationwide power outage,"reported teleSUR English Tuesday.

The U.S. reduced its diplomatic staff in Caracas in January after recognizing Guaido. Since then, relations between the two countries have grown increasingly strained and the Trump administration has repeatedly falsely blamed Maduro for the "deteriorating situation"—accusing him of burning aid trucks which were actually set ablaze by Guaido's supporters and calling him a "tyrant" for blocking so-called "humanitarian aid."

Over the fierce objections of Maduro, the Trump administration sent an aid convoy in mid-February, amounting to $20 million in food and medicine—a fraction of the amount that U.S.-imposed sanctions have cost the country since 2017, contributing to the economic crisis there.

Along with Maduro, the International Committee of the Red Cross denounced the shipment, saying the so-called aid appeared to be politically motivated amid the two countries' strained relations.

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In a troubling sign of potential imminent escalation, the US announced late on Monday night that the remaining diplomatic staff at the American embassy in Venezuela will be withdrawn by the end of the week, citing the ongoing and deteriorating political and humanitarian conditions in the socialist nation

Looting and violence are rapidly on the rise as Venezuela enters its fifth day without power across most of the country though some reports suggest as much as 30% of power has returned to parts of the capital city Caracas.

Much of Venezuela is still in the dark — now four days running — after the worst blackout on modern record in Latin America enveloped the country last Thursday evening. And as of Saturday, Reuters reported at least 17 deaths at hospitals across the country attributable to the power outage, given many hospitals are now for days completely reliant on back-up generators to keep life saving ventilators and other medical devices going. Other reports have claimed multiple dozens of deaths across the country, especially in hospital neonatal units.

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