Venezuela Expels US Diplomats

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Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro points while answering a journalist's question after signing a document defining electoral guarantees for the upcoming presidential election at the National Electoral Council in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, March 2, 2018. The government has reached an agreement with several opposition parties to delay the April 22 presidential election until the second half of May, which would now coincide with elections for local city councils and state legislatures nationwide. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Venezuela ordered American diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours yesterday after President Nicolas Maduro accused United States counterpart Donald Trump of cyber “sabotage” that plunged the OPEC nation into its worst blackout on record.

 

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said U.S. diplomats on Venezuelan soil must leave within three days, after talks broke down over maintaining diplomatic “interest sections” in the two countries.

“The presence on Venezuelan soil of these officials represents a risk for the peace, unity and stability of the country,” the government said in a statement.

 

The U.S. State Department had announced on Monday it will withdraw its staff from Venezuela this week, saying their presence had become “a constraint on U.S. policy.”  Power returned to many parts of the country yesterday including some areas that had not had electricity since last Thursday, according to witnesses and social media.

 

But power was still out in parts of the capital of Caracas and the western region near the border with Colombia. Maduro blamed Washington for organizing what he said was a sophisticated cyber attack on Venezuela’s hydroelectric power operations.

 

“Donald Trump is most responsible for the cyber attack on the Venezuelan electricity system,” Maduro said in a broadcast from the Miraflores presidential palace on Monday night.   “This is a technology that only the government of the United States possesses.”

 

Meanwhile, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said no military action from inside or outside Venezuela would be acceptable to resolve the “dramatically” deteriorating situation in the country.

She told the U.N. Security Council in New York yesterday that “a solution cannot be, and should never be, imposed from the outside.” But she said that “an international initiative can help build a peaceful and democratic way out of the crisis.”

She noted that an International Contact Group with European and Latin American countries has been created “to help create the conditions for a political process that would lead to free and fair presidential elections.”

Mogherini said the EU is also working with U.N. agencies “to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those in need inside and outside of the country following the key principles of humanitarian law, and avoiding any politicization of the aid delivery.”

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