Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro on Thursday ordered the Venezuelan embassy and all of its consulates in the United States to close, recalling all diplomatic personnel from America by Saturday.
Maduro gave the order during a lengthy rant against the United States and President Donald Trump, as quoted by CNN:
“I believe there’s no doubt that Donald Trump wants to impose a de facto government, unconstitutional government, a coup against the people and democracy in Venezuela,” Maduro said. “There’s no doubt that is Donald Trump with his craziness of believing he’s the world’s police.”
All non-emergency US employees were ordered to leave Venezuela on Thursday, according to a security alert. The move comes after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had brushed off Maduro’s order that US diplomats leave the country and they had been restricted to travel within a few neighborhoods in Caracas.
The US Embassy in Caracas opened Thursday but all visa appointments were canceled.
As for the U.S. embassy in Venezuela, some American diplomats reportedly departed for the airport in Caracas on Friday morning after requesting a police escort for their motorcade. It was not clear as of Friday morning how many personnel will remain at the U.S. embassy. As of Friday morning, the embassy said it plans to maintain normal business hours, but all visa appointments for January 24 were canceled.
The U.S. government previously stated that non-essential personnel would be evacuated due to security concerns, but insisted Maduro does not have the legal authority to expel diplomats, as he is no longer the recognized president of Venezuela. American diplomatic personnel in Venezuela were instructed on Thursday to limit their movements to three relatively safe neighborhoods in Caracas.
U.S. Embassy Caracas on Friday warned Americans in Venezuela that the U.S. government “has limited ability to provide emergency services” for them.
“U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Venezuela should strongly consider departing Venezuela. Commercial flights remain available,” the embassy said.
Maduro might attempt to issue many more expulsion orders in the near future, as Spain is pushing the European Union to join the United States and several major Latin American countries in recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the acting president of Venezuela unless Maduro immediately commits to holding free and fair elections with international supervision.
Maduro will probably want to kick the United Nations out of Venezuela as well since human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Friday recommended an independent investigation of Maduro’s security forces and allied militia for using excessive force against demonstrators. The U.N. human rights organization is also bracing for a new flood of refugees from Venezuela.