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Trump recognizes Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as legitimate president

January 23, 2019

President Trump announced Wednesday that his administration now recognizes Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of theSouth American nation, at a moment of uprising against standing Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro.

“I am officially recognizing the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “In its role as the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people, the National Assembly invoked the country’s constitution to declare Nicolas Maduro illegitimate, and the office of the presidency therefore vacant.”

The announcement comes two weeks after Mr. Maduro was inaugurated for a second term in office in Caracas after a series of developments that Venezuelan opposition figures and the Trump administration have decried as authoritarian power grabs.

Administration officials have ramped up their rhetoric against the Maduro government in recent days, with Vice President Mike Pence releasing a video statement in which he told Venezuelan opposition protesters that America stands with them.

“We stand with you, and we will stay with you until democracy is restored,” Mr. Pence said in the message, on the eve of anti-Maduro demonstrations that rocked Caracas on Wednesday.

Critics and some regional analysts have accused the Trump administration of attempting to foment a coup against Mr. Maduro in Venezuela.

Mr. Trump’s statement on Wednesday said: “The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”

“I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy,” Mr. Trump said “We encourage other Western Hemisphere governments to recognize National Assembly President Guaido as the Interim President of Venezuela, and we will work constructively with them in support of his efforts to restore constitutional legitimacy.”

“We continue to hold the illegitimate Maduro regime directly responsible for any threats it may pose to the safety of the Venezuelan people,” he added. “As Interim President Guaido noted yesterday: ‘Violence is the usurper’s weapon; we only have one clear action: to remain united and firm for a democratic and free Venezuela.’”

Some Republicans on Capitol Hill were quick to back Mr. Trumps move.Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican, praised the move and said it’s the latest decision by a Trump administration that’s ratcheted up pressure on the maverick Venezuelan leader.This is a significant milestone for the Venezuelan people and their pursuit for democracy,” he said. “Todays acknowledgment of new leadership, with the backing of Venezuelas powerful opposition, is a definitive step forward.“Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican and a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, praised the administration for its quick and decisive recognition of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.The Venezuelan parliament is the only branch of the government that has been elected and empowered by the countrys people, said Mr. Cruz. The Venezuelan people have been fighting for years to be free from the brutal and thuggish rule of Nicolas Maduro and his cronies, who have impoverished the country and shredded its social fabric.

Mr. Trump’s move appeared to receive full support from the Organization of American States (OAS), a multinational group that has a history of criticizing U.S. interventions in Latin America but has largely stood with Washington in condemning the Maduro government in recent years.

The OAS tweeted it’s “congratulations” Wednesday to Mr. Guaido as the “interim president” of Venezuela. “You have our recognition to move forward the country’s return to democracy,” the tweet said.

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