Venezuela blames U.S. for six-day blackout; Washington vows to punish 'bad actors'
Updated 12:48, 13-Mar-2019
CGTN

‍Venezuela ordered American diplomats on Tuesday to leave within 72 hours after President Nicolas Maduro accused U.S. President Donald Trump of cyber "sabotage" that plunged the South American country into its worst blackout on record. 

"The presence on Venezuelan soil of these officials represents a risk for the peace, unity and stability of the country," the government said in a statement after talks broke down over maintaining diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a broadcast at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, March 11, 2019. /VCG Photo

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a broadcast at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, March 11, 2019. /VCG Photo

Chief Prosecutor Tarek Saab said on Tuesday he was asking Venezuela's Supreme Court to open an investigation into opposition leader Juan Guaido for participating in the alleged "sabotage." Washington has taken the lead in recognizing Guaido as Venezuela's rightful president after the 35-year-old declared himself interim president in January, calling Maduro's 2018 re-election a fraud.  

The massive power blackout is still causing misery across Venezuela. The lights went out last week, and officials have said they're working hard to put the power back on across the country. CGTN'S Juan Carlos Lamas filed this report from Caracas.

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The United States has implemented harsh sanctions in the past several months on Venezuela to put pressure on Maduro. The U.S. special envoy on Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, said on Tuesday that Washington was prepared to impose "very significant" additional sanctions in the coming days against financial institutions deemed to be supporting Maduro's government.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would use all its economic tools to help deal with the situation in Venezuela, and called on U.S. oil industry to help the government to punish what he called "bad actors" on the world stage.

Addressing top executives of the world's largest energy companies and oil ministers in Houston on Tuesday, Pompeo said that America's newfound shale oil and natural gas abundance would "strengthen our hand in foreign policy."

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, March 1, 2019. /Reuters Photo

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, March 1, 2019. /Reuters Photo

He said the government would use all its economic tools to help deal with the situation in Venezuela.

"We need to roll up our sleeves and compete – by facilitating investment, encouraging partners to buy from us, and by punishing bad actors," Pompeo said, by referring to the world's two major oil producers –Iran and Venezuela.

Last year, Washington also reimposed oil sanctions on Iran, sharply reducing its volume of crude exports in the past several months in an effort to curb Tehran's nuclear, missile and regional activities. 

Source(s): Reuters