Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president on Wednesday, winning over the backing of the Washington and many Latin American nations and prompting socialist Nicolas Maduro to break relations with the United States.
Speaking to supporters outside the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, socialist leader Maduro said he would give US diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave Venezuela, which is suffering from a hyperinflationary economic collapse, CNBC reported.
US President Donald Trump formally recognized Guaido shortly after his announcement and praised his plan to hold elections. That was swiftly followed by similar statements from Canada and a slew of right-leaning Latin American governments, including Venezuela’s neighbors Brazil and Colombia.
The US State Department said in a statement that it would not remove American diplomats because it did not recognize Maduro’s as the government of Venezuela: “The United States does not consider former president Nicolas Maduro to have the legal authority to break diplomatic relations with the United States or to declare our diplomats persona non grata.”
At a rally that brought hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans into the east of Caracas, Guaido said Maduro had usurped power and promised to create a transitional government that would help the country escape its hyperinflationary economic collapse.
“I swear to assume all the powers of the presidency to secure an end to the usurpation,” 35-year old Guaido, the head of the opposition-run congress, told an exuberant crowd.
Guaido’s declaration takes Venezuela into uncharted territory, with the possibility of the opposition now running a parallel government recognized abroad as legitimate but without control over state functions.
In a televised broadcast from the presidential palace, Maduro accused the opposition of seeking to stage a coup with the support of the United States, which he said was seeking to govern Venezuela from Washington.
“We’ve had enough interventionism, here we have dignity, damn it! Here is a people willing to defend this land,” said Maduro, flanked by top Socialist Party leaders, although the defense minister and members of the military high command were absent. The office of Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino did not answer a phone call seeking comment