Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said his government was breaking relations with the United States and gave diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave the country after President Donald Trump on Wednesday backed the country’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as interim president.
Hours later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement saying the U.S. does not recognize the Maduro regime as the country’s government. “Accordingly 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.”
Guaidó, 35, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, had earlier declared himself interim president as hundreds of thousands marched in Caracas demanding an end to Maduro’s government.
In a statement, President Trump said: “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 Nicolás 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”.
Most countries in Latin America, as well as Canada, recognized Guaidó as interim president after he took the oath before his supporters. Leftist allies, Cuba and Bolivia, were the only two in the region that voiced support for Maduro. Mexico’s new leftist president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would not take sides and said support for Guaidó is a violation of sovereignty.