Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) has decided to pull out of Venezuela for the first time since being stationed there in 1970 amid the country’s growing political turmoil.
The state-funded organization said Wednesday it will shut down its trade office in Caracas, capital of Venezuela, on Mar. 1. Trade relations with Venezuela would be maintained through its branch in Panama, it added.
KOTRA’s Caracas office was established in March 1970, making it one of the agency’s oldest outposts overseas. It had been staffed with one KOTRA employee and three local workers.
KOTRA had considered waiting out the situation even as Venezuela over the years spiraled deeper into political instability and economic chaos. But it was pressured to evacuate the country as the political crisis heightened in recent days, with mass protests becoming increasingly more frequent and violent.
An empty display stand in a Venezuelan supermarket. [Photo provided by KOTRA]
The crisis behind Venezuela is largely a power struggle over who is the rightful president of the country. Nicolás Maduro was re-elected as president in 2018 but the results were highly contested as many opposition candidates were barred from running. Last week, Juan Guaidó, president of the National Assembly, denounced Maduro as a “usurper” and declared himself interim president in a direct challenge to the socialist leader.
The announcement has divided the international community, with the U.S., U.K. and most Latin American countries backing Guaidó and Russia, China and Venezuela’s military supporting Maduro.
In a move to drive Maduro from power, the Trump administration on Monday imposed sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, taking aim at the country’s main source of income.
At least 40 people have died in the recent protests, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office.
By Hwang Soon-min and Kim Hyo-jin
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