The diplomatic crisis between the United States and Venezuela seems to be deepening. On Thursday, the State Department ordered all non-emergency personnel out of the South American country.
The State Department further warned that American citizens “residing or traveling in Venezuela should strongly consider departing” while flights remain available.
“The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Venezuela. If choosing to stay, ensure you have adequate supplies to shelter in place,” the State Department’s security alert said.
The announcement came shortly after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that he would close the Venezuelan Embassy in the United States and pull all diplomatic staff from the country.
“I have decided to return all our diplomatic and consular staff from our country that is abroad and close our embassy and all of our consulates in the United States,” he said during a live-aired speech delivered at the Venezuela Supreme Court.
At the same time, Maduro said he was giving U.S. diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave.
“They have until Sunday, that is their 72-hour deadline to leave Venezuela. To get out of Venezuela. I’m telling the State Department, in a sensible and rational way and based on international law, they must follow the order that has been issued by the Venezuelan government,” he said.
U.S. administration officials dismissed such comments as “meaningless” and invited personnel “to stay by the legitimate government.”
According to a senior State Department official, the United States has no plans to close its embassy in Caracas. “We are closely monitoring the situation. Safety and security are, as always, a top priority,” the official stressed.
His comments were echoed by a State Department spokesperson, who said they would do everything in their power to keep U.S. government employees and their families in the Venezuelan capital safe.