The U.S. State Department ordered all non-emergency government staff out of Venezuela and advised other Americans in the country to also leave.
The State Department security alert comes a day after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s ordered the U.S. to close its embassy in Caracas and get all of its diplomatic employees out of the country.
Maduro gave them 72 hours to leave after President Donald Trump announced Wednesday the U.S. no longer recognizes the Maduro government. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shot back Wednesday that the U.S. doesn’t recognize Maduro as having “the legal authority to break diplomatic relations.”
The U.S. is keeping its embassy in Venezuela open, according to the State Department announcement. “This is a reduction in staff but not a closing of the embassy,” the alert says.
U.S. citizens traveling or living in the country were also advised to “strongly consider departing,” in the announcement. It advised Americans in Venezuela to consider leaving “while commercial flights are available,” adding that those who stay should “ensure you have adequate supplies to shelter in place.”
Prior to the announcement Thursday, a former career diplomat said the Trump administration should remove personnel without delay to reduce risk to Americans stationed there.
“What we really need to start telling citizens is, ‘This is the time to get out. This is the time to prepare,’” said Brett Bruen, who served in Venezuela and whose most recent government posting was as director of global engagement during the Obama administration.