“The diplomatic staff from the embassy in Caracas arrived at Dulles airport just after 11 o’clock last night, and they will be meeting the Secretary at 2:30 this afternoon”, Abrams said. “They will, in essence, continue their mission from other locations, from the State Department, for the most part, to try to support the Venezuelan people as they struggle to return Venezuela to democracy”.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Thursday that all US diplomatic staff had left Venezuela and would continue to carry out their mission from other locations, though he did not specify where the diplomats would be based.
Abrams said immigrant visas for Venezuelans would be processed in Bogota, Colombia, while applications for non-immigrant US visas could be submitted to any consular facility around the world.
“We do not ever know exactly how many Americans are in any country because Americans are free to travel […] so we are guessing”, Abrams said. “And the guesses are in the range of 30,000; as we said, there are higher ranges, 35,000, 40,000, even higher than that, but we do not know the exact number, because we have no way of knowing”.
Earlier this week, Pompeo announced that the United States was withdrawing all of its remaining diplomatic staff from Venezuela due to security concerns. On 24 January, Washington recalled all “non-essential” diplomats and embassy personnel from Venezuela, citing security concerns.
The crisis in Venezuela escalated in January when Juan Guaido was elected president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which all other government branches have been refusing to recognize since 2016. Guaido then declared himself the country's "interim president", gaining almost immediate support from the United States and its allies.
The United States has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Venezuela. The US Treasury Department recently blocked $7 billion in assets belonging to Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has denounced the sanctions as an illegal attempt to seize Venezuela’s sovereign assets.
Russia, China, Mexico, Turkey and several other countries continue to recognize constitutionally elected President Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.