On Wednesday, taking a typically unequivocal stance, President Trump recognized Juan Guaido, 35, the president of the Venezuela National Assembly who is in opposition to socialist President Nicholas Maduro, as the interim president of Venezuela just minutes after Guaido announced himself as the head of state.
As Bloomberg reports, at a protest in Caracas before hundreds of thousands of people, Guaido stated he would assume the powers of the Venezuela presidency, citing a constitutional amendment that permits the head of the legislature to do so. He said, “I swear to formally assume the powers of the national executive as interim president of Venezuela to achieve the end of the usurpation.” NBC News noted, “The protests were called to coincide with the anniversary of the 1958 coup that overthrew military dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez – a historic date for Venezuelans.”
Guaido became the president of the Venezuela National Assembly on January 5. Roughly two weeks ago, Maduro was inaugurated for a second, six-year term, but many countries, including the United States, have called his election illegitimate.
Trump released a statement asserting:
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 people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law … 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.
As Bloomberg notes, “The U.S. has steadily expanded economic sanctions and denunciations of Maduro since Trump took office, all but urging that Venezuelans overturn their government. Venezuela’s dollar bonds, which have gained 25 percent on average this year, rallied further on Wednesday as the opposition increased pressure on Maduro.”
On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence urged Venezuelans to “make your voices heard,” adding, “Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power.”
Trump and others opposed to Maduro are opposed to Venezuela’s loyalist Supreme Court, which said it would depose Guaido and refuse to recognize the assembly’s motion which said Maduro was an illegitimate president.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said on Tuesday after meeting with President Trump, “We encouraged the President today to follow through with what he’s already declared, which is that Maduro is illegitimate. The next logical step is to recognize the president of the National Assembly as the rightful president.”
After President Trump made his statement on Wednesday, Rubio cheered President Trump, asserting, “During our various conversations on Venezuela the president has made it clear that he will use the full weight of the United States to press for the restoration of democracy and constitutional legitimacy in Venezuela. I also know the president will hold the illegitimate Maduro regime directly responsible for any actions taken against President Guaido, members of the National Assembly, and peaceful protestors.”