As Saturday Deadline Drew Near, Venezuela Changed Its Mind

Nicolas Maduro backtracked on demand that US diplomats leave by Saturday night
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 27, 2019 5:20 AM CST
As Saturday Deadline Drew Near, Venezuela Changed Its Mind
A US flag flies outside the US embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019.   (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Venezuela defused a potential showdown with the United States, suspending a demand that US diplomats leave the country as Washington called on the world to "pick a side" in the South American nation's fast-moving crisis. Socialist President Nicolas Maduro broke relations with the United States on Wednesday after the Trump administration and many other nations in the region recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president, a move that Maduro called a coup attempt. Maduro gave US diplomats three days to leave the country, but the Trump administration said it wouldn't obey, arguing that Maduro is no longer Venezuela's legitimate president. That set the stage for a showdown at the hilltop US Embassy compound Saturday night, when the deadline was to expire, reports the AP.

But as the sun set on Venezuela's capital, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Maduro's government was suspending the expulsion to provide a 30-day window for negotiating with US officials about setting up a "US interests office" in Venezuela and a similar Venezuelan office in the United States. The US and Cuba had a similar arrangement for decades before the Obama administration restored diplomatic relations with the communist-run island. Earlier Saturday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the UN Security Council: "Let me be 100% clear—President Trump and I fully expect that our diplomats will continue to receive protections provided under the Vienna Convention. Do not test the United States on our resolve to protect our people." (Read much more on the situation here.)

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