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US orders relatives of embassy staff to leave Venezuela

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The US State Department on Thursday ordered the family members of its embassy staff in Caracas to leave Venezuela and authorized the voluntary departure of its employees as a political crisis appeared headed for a dangerous showdown.

Its advisory also warned citizens against traveling to the South American country “due to social unrest, violent crime, and pervasive food and medicine shortages.”

The move came as the embattled government of President Nicolas Maduro was on a deadly collision course with the opposition, which defied a government ban to hold a nationwide strike ahead of a controversial weekend vote.

Maduro has scheduled an election for a constitutional assembly on Sunday to rewrite the country’s basic law — a move slammed by his opponents as an attempt to strengthen his grip on power.

The US on Wednesday imposed sanctions on 13 current or former senior Venezuelan officials in retaliation for Maduro’s refusal to scrap the vote.

Its Thursday’s statement further noted: “The political and security situation in Venezuela is unpredictable and can change quickly,” adding: “Indiscriminate violent crime is endemic throughout the country and can occur anywhere at any time.”

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