US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, pictured in February 2019, vowed to support those “bravely resisting tyranny” (VLADIMIR SIMICEK)

Washington (AFP) – The United States has withdrawn all remaining diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Caracas as the crisis in Venezuela deepens, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday.

“Today, all US diplomats remaining in Venezuela departed the country. I know it is a difficult moment for them,” he said in a statement.

“They are fully dedicated to our mission of supporting the Venezuelan people’s aspirations to live in a democracy and build a better future for their families.”

Venezuela is gripped by an acute economic crisis that has fueled the rise of opposition leader Juan Guaido, the national assembly speaker who in late January declared himself to be the interim leader.

The embassy closure is set to worsen already tattered relations with US President Donald Trump, who has not ruled out military intervention to oust President Nicolas Maduro as Washington monitors rapidly unfolding events in the oil-rich but crippled South American nation.

The US has already imposed sanctions designed to choke off Venezuelan oil sales, the lifeblood of the leftist government in Caracas.

The country began returning to normal Thursday following a near-total weeklong blackout that the government has blamed on what it calls sabotage encouraged by the US.

Pompeo said the diplomatic staff would continue from outside Venezuela to work for its future, help manage the flow of humanitarian assistance and support those “bravely resisting tyranny.”

“The United States government, at all levels, remains firm in its resolve and support for the people of Venezuela and Interim President Juan Guaido,” Pompeo added.

“We look forward to resuming our presence once the transition to democracy begins.”

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