Juan Guaidó has sworn himself in as the new President of Venezuela following widespread protests aimed at removing incumbent leader Nicolás Maduro.
US President Donald Trump moved within minutes to recognise Guaidó as the interim President of Venezuela.
“The citizens of Venezuela have suffered for too long at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Today, I have officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó as the Interim President of Venezuela.”
Vice President Mike Pence wrote: “To @JGuaido & the people of Venezuela: America stands with you & we will continue to stand with you until #Libertad is restored!”. Democrat politician Andrew Gillum also voiced his support for the Venezuelan opposition and said Maduro had been an “illegitimate dictator”.
The citizens of Venezuela have suffered for too long at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime. Today, I have officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela. https://t.co/WItWPiG9jK
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2019
Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans had protested the Maduro regime
The 35-year-old Guaidó made the declaration in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, on 23 January local time. Other South American nations, including Colombia, Brazil and Peru, also quickly moved to recognise his status as President.
The change in leadership followed widespread protests against President Nicolás Maduro, who presided over a disastrous downturn in the national economy. The country has been beset with power outages, shortages of basic medicine and groceries and hyperinflation.
In response, more than 2 million people had tried to flee Venezuela, prompting neighbouring country Brazil to send troops to its border.
The socialist Maduro had been sworn in for another term only weeks ago but the legitimacy of the preceding election, which took place back in May 2018, had been hotly disputed and the opposition party had called for a boycott of the vote.
Immediately after Maduro was sworn in again, Paraguayan President Mario Abdo announced he would sever diplomatic ties with Venezuela and withdraw all Paraguay’s diplomats from Caracas.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) January 23, 2019
Maduro’s Presidency had been condemned by the international community
Maduro conceded Venezuela was facing challenges but insisted he would get the country out of its mire without any international assistance.
In response to the US supporting Guaidó, Maduro ordered all US diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours.
“We’ve had enough interventionism, here we have dignity, damn it!” he said in a televised address.
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly condemned the state of Venezuela under Maduro, reporting “there has been an alarming rise in the intensity of abuses and the severity of the rights crackdown in Venezuela” under his rule.
A United Nations report also criticised the country in the strongest terms, saying the “rule of law is virtually absent” in Venezuela.
Header image credit: Voice of America