US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has refused to pull diplomats from Caracas, arguing the government that severed diplomatic ties with the US is not legitimate and threatening ‘appropriate actions’ if anyone is endangered.
“We call on the Venezuelan military and security forces to continue protecting the welfare and well-being of all Venezuelan citizens, as well as US and other foreign citizens in Venezuela,” Pompeo said in a statement on Wednesday evening, adding the US “will take appropriate action to hold accountable anyone who endangers the safety and security of our mission and its personnel.”
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro declared all US diplomats persona non grata on Wednesday, after Washington recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s president. Guaido, however, said he wanted the US diplomats to stay, setting the stage for a potential diplomatic incident.
As the US does not recognize Maduro’s “regime,” his order for US diplomats to leave is not legitimate, Pompeo argued, adding that Washington will conduct diplomatic relations with Caracas solely through Guaido’s government.
After the Trump administration recognized Guaido’s government, a number of US allies followed suit, including most of the OAS countries and Canada. EU leaders also endorsed the rebel government.
Cuba and Bolivia have expressed support for Maduro, while Mexico has said it would continue to recognize Maduro’s legitimacy “for now.” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the US “handpicking” of a government in Caracas perfectly illustrates the true Western sentiments toward international law, sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs of states.