February 21, 2019 / 6:38 PM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 1-Eleven Venezuela diplomats in U.S. defect since last month -opposition

(Adds comment from opposition official, background)

WASHINGTON, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Eleven Venezuelan diplomats in the United States have defected from President Nicolas Maduro’s government since opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president last month, a representative of the opposition said on Thursday.

Gustavo Marcano, senior aide to the Venezuelan opposition’s envoy to Washington, told reporters that bank accounts for Venezuelan embassies and consulates in the United States had been frozen and that Maduro’s diplomatic network in the country had ceased to function.

The opposition was working to restore consular services in the United States, Marcano said. The 11 defections are out of a total of 56 Venezuelan diplomats in the country.

Carlos Vecchio, the opposition’s envoy to the United States, told reporters that those who defected from Maduro’s government would continue to be employed under Guaido’s interim government.

Maduro accuses the Trump administration, which recognizes Guaido but has levied crippling sanctions against the Venezuelan government, of seeking to force his ouster.

Guaido invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency on Jan. 23. (Reporting By Matt Spetalnick and Luc Cohen; Writing by Meredith Mazzilli; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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