Trump recognises opposition leader as Venezuela president

Agency, 24 January : Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, has secured significant international support after declaring himself interim president in a dramatic escalation of efforts to force out Nicolás Maduro as two nights of unrest in which 14 people died gripped the country.

Guaidó was quickly recognised by the US, Canada, Brazil, Colombia and other US allies in the Americas, while the European Union said the voice of the people “cannot be ignored”.

Donald Trump warned that “all options are on the table” if Maduro who has overseen the country’s slide into authoritarianism and economic ruin responded with force against the opposition. Vice president Mike Pence later made clear the US would use “the full weight of our diplomatic and economic pressure. US officials said the US would look at ways to transfer Venezuelan assets and oil revenues to Guaidó and the opposition-run national assembly.

Maduro responded with defiance, cutting off relations with the US and ordering all US diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours.

“We are defending the right to the very existence of our Bolivarian republic,” Maduro told supporters at a rally outside the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas. He urged them to resist “at all costs” what he called a coup attempt being orchestrated by “the coup-mongering, interventionist gringo empire” and the “fascist right”.

“They intend to govern Venezuela from Washington,” Maduro shouted from the palace’s people’s balcony. “Do you want a puppet government controlled by Washington?”

Guaidó issued his own statement, urging foreign embassies to keep their diplomats in the country. The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, later said the US would abide by Guaidó’s directive and ignore Maduro’s order to withdraw its diplomats.

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