Maduro Accuses President Trump of ‘Staging a Coup’ in Venezuela
Venezuelan citizens rise up to oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro
Following years of rule under a socialist dictatorship, the citizens of Venezuela have risen up in their tens of thousands and ousted the country's "illegitimate" leader, Nicolas Maduro, with US President Donald Trump announcing on Wednesday that he would officially recognize the opposition leader as interim head.
Shortly after backing from the United States, several Latin American countries followed suit and declared they would also recognize the opposition leader Juan Guaido as the Venezuelan interim president.
Maduro is refusing to go down without a fight, however, and said Caracas is ending diplomatic relations with the US, ordering American diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours, shortly after Trump announced support for Guaido.
In a tweet, President Trump announced his recognition of Venezuela's new leader, saying:
"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."
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
President Trump sided with Guaido in the leadership dispute, who on Wednesday proclaimed himself the country’s acting head, “officially” recognizing him as such.
Trump also describes Maduro’s government as an “illegitimate regime.”
According to RT, Maduro has responded by accusing the Trump Administration of "staging a coup" to overthrow him as the country's president.
Elsewhere in the Americas, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, and Peru all followed suit within two hours of the US move.
They were also joined by the Organization of American States (OAS), as well as Canada.
Mexico chose not to, still recognizing Maduro as the country’s president “for now,” as a government spokesperson put it.
Socialist Bolivia, on the other hand, pledged full support to Nicolas Maduro in the fight against the “claws of imperialism,” as tweeted by President Evo Morales.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister lashed out at “subordinate clowns” who he said followed the “owner of the imperialist circus” in recognition of Guaido, as expected.
The new interim President Guaido meanwhile promised in a tweet that Venezuela “will continue to maintain diplomatic relations with all the countries of the world.”
On Tuesday, US Vice President Mike Pence sent a recorded video to Venezuelans referring to Maduro as "a dictator with no legitimate claim to power."
"He has never won the presidency in a free and fair election, and has maintained his grip on power by imprisoning anyone who dares to oppose him," Pence said in the video.
According to Fox News, just hours after the video was sent on Tuesday, Maduro spoke on state television, saying that Pence had brought about a 200-year low in relations between the two countries by authorizing a coup.
On Wednesday Trump recognized 35-year-old Guaido, head of the opposition-controlled Congress, as the country's interim president.
"The citizens of Venezuela have suffered for too long at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime," Trump tweeted after Guaido spoke to his supporters, and tens of thousands of protesters hit the streets in widespread protest against Maduro.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said later Wednesday that the U.S. stands with Guaido, and "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."
Guaido's supporters, shouting phrases including "Get out, Maduro," say they're fed up with spiraling inflation, a shortage of basic goods and a migration crisis dividing families.
The protest is considered a crucial test for the reinvigorated opposition as it seeks to send a forceful message that Maduro no longer has the people's backing and appeals to the military and the poor to shift loyalties that until recently looked solidly behind the president.
The protests were called to coincide with a historic date for Venezuelans — the anniversary of the 1958 coup that overthrew military dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez.
Maduro, who started his second term as president on Jan. 11 after disputed elections, is facing increasing hostility from the international community.
He has sought to shore up support from the armed forces by doling out key posts to top generals, including one as the head of the oil monopoly that is the source of virtually all of Venezuela's export earnings.
He has also been acting as commander in chief, appearing last week at a military command meeting wearing camouflage fatigues and receiving the blessing of the defense minister, Gen. Vladimir Padrino Lopez.
Maduro has accused the opposition of inciting violence with the aim of provoking a bloodbath.
Top socialist leaders have threatened to unleash menacing motorcycle gangs of pro-government die-hards known as "colectivos."
"I demand the full rigor of the law against the fascists," Maduro said Tuesday night, blaming "terrorists" allegedly linked to Guaido's Popular Will party for a fire at a cultural center named for a pro-government lawmaker murdered in 2014.