WASHINGTON – The Swiss government will represent U.S. diplomatic and other interests in Venezuela for an undetermined amount of time, beginning today, similar to what that nation provides for Washington in Iran.
“The United States extends our deepest appreciation to the Swiss for offering to undertake this important function and assist U.S. citizens on our behalf,” the State Department said in a statement to reporters on Friday.
The agreement, known as a “protecting power,” was reached in the wake of the U.S. closing its embassy and consulates in Venezuela in the face of increasing confrontation with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The U.S. says Maduro’s reelection as president was improper and support opposition leader Juan Guido; on Friday U.S. officials expanded sanctions on Venezeula entities.
While the agreement with Switzerland begins today, the Swiss government will not immediately be able to provide consular and others services to U.S. citizens, the State Department said.
“Where possible, U.S. citizens in Venezuela who require emergency assistance should continue to visit the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in another country,” the State Department release said. “We continue to warn U.S. citizens against travel to Venezuela and urge remaining U.S. citizens to leave Venezuela immediately.”
The State Department said U.S. citizens who remain in Venezuela should enroll their travel plans in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP.state.gov) in order to receive timely security alerts and updates on Venezuela.
Between 1961 and 2015, Switzerland was the protecting power of the United States in Cuba. It has been the protecting power in Iran since May 21, 1980.