The United States on Friday intensified its push to drive Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from power, as US diplomats left the embassy in Caracas and Russia vowed to back its South American ally.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday will urge members of the United Nations Security Council to recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela‘s legitimate head of state.
Washington requested the meeting of the 15-member council after a string of countries threw their weight behind Guaido, who heads Venezuela’s congress, and urged Maduro to step down.
Russia opposes the request and has accused Washington of backing a coup attempt, placing Venezuela at the heart of a growing geopolitical duel. Moscow will insist on compliance with international law, Russia’s RIA news agency cited Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Friday.
Maduro said he welcomed a debate over Venezuela’s situation and thanked Pompeo for making the UN request, in a jocular response during a Friday news conference.
“I was about to say to the foreign minister ‘ask for a security council debate,’ (but) Mike Pompeo got ahead of me,” Maduro said. “Thanks, Mike … We’re going to tell the truth about the articles of the constitution, about the coup.”
Earlier, American diplomats left the US embassy in Caracas in a convoy of vehicles with a police escort en route to the airport, according to a Reuters witness.
In a fiery speech on Wednesday, Maduro broke off diplomatic relations with Washington and ordered the US personnel out within 72 hours.
The State Department on Thursday told some US government workers to leave Venezuela and said US citizens in the country should consider leaving. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the movement of embassy personnel on Friday.
UN human rights boss Michelle Bachelet called on Friday for an investigation into alleged excessive use of force by Venezuelan security forces against protesters, adding that she was “extremely concerned” that the situation could rapidly spiral out of control.