March 13, 2019 / 1:33 AM / 12 days ago

U.S. military not involved in withdrawing diplomats from Venezuela

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military has not been asked to assist with the removal of American diplomatic personnel from Venezuela, the top U.S. military commander for the region told Reuters, adding they were expected to depart the country by commercial means.

“Right now, we’ve not been asked to support that evacuation,” Admiral Craig Faller, head of the U.S. military’s Southern Command, said in an interview on Tuesday.

Venezuela ordered U.S. diplomats on Tuesday to leave within 72 hours. Washington said it had decided to withdraw the remaining diplomats because of deteriorating conditions in Venezuela, which has been plunged into its worst blackout on record.

U.S. special envoy Elliott Abrams, speaking earlier on Tuesday to reporters at the State Department, said the withdrawal of diplomats was not a change in U.S. policy or a reduction in the U.S. commitment to the Venezuelan people.

Washington has taken the lead in recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful president after the 35-year-old Congress chief declared President Nicolas Maduro’s 2018 re-election a fraud and announced an interim presidency in January. Most countries in Europe and Latin America have followed suit.

Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Peter Cooney

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