Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is giving American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country after breaking diplomatic relations with the United States over its decision to recognize an opposition leader as interim president.
“Before the people and nations of the world, and as constitutional president…..I’ve decided to break diplomatic and political relations with the imperialist U.S. government,” Maduro told a crowd of red-shirted supporters gathered at the presidential palace.
He made the announcement following a tumultuous day that saw Juan Guaido, the head of the opposition-controlled congress, declare himself interim president and call elections.
The move was immediately backed by the Trump administration, which said it was willing to use all its economic and diplomatic power to restore Venezuela’s democracy.
In a Jan. 23 statement from the White House, Trump said Guaidó, the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly was the only “legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people.”
Today @POTUS announced the U.S. officially recognizes Juan Guaidó as the Interim President of Venezuela. To @JGuaido & the people of Venezuela: America stands with you & we will continue to stand with you until #Libertad is restored! pic.twitter.com/4W3hlGplql
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) January 23, 2019
Venuezula is one of three socialist countries dubbed by the Trump administration as the “Troika of Tyranny” which includes Cuba and Nicaragua. In a November speech, national security adviser John Bolton described the countries as a “triangle of terror” and imposed sanctions on Venezuela and Cuba, while vowing to punish Nicaragua.
Vice President Mike Pence delivered a video message of support on Jan. 22, to the people of Venezuela who are protesting against Maduro.
In Pence’s taped message he lambasted Maduro, describing him as a dictator who has no rightful claim to power.
As the good people of Venezuela make your voices heard tomorrow, on behalf of the American people, we say: estamos con ustedes. We are with you. We stand with you, and we will stay with you until Democracy is restored and you reclaim your birthright of Libertad. pic.twitter.com/ThzIAqBoRn
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) January 22, 2019
Pence called out Maduro’s regime and urged Venezuelans to ramp up their protests.
“On behalf of President Donald Trump and all the American people, let me express the unwavering support of the United States as you, the people of Venezuela, raise your voices in a call for freedom,” he said in the video.
“Nicolas Maduro is 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 of power by imprisoning anyone who dares to oppose him.”
Venezuela’s opposition supporters held marches nationwide on Jan. 23, as part of an annual event that marks the fall of a military government in 1958. Government critics are increasingly comparing Maduro to dictator Marcos Perez, who was ousted from power that year.
President Donald Trump has been asked whether the United States would use military action in Venezuela to support the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro and his response was ambiguous.
“We are not considering anything, but all options are on the table,” Trump told reporters following a roundtable discussion at the White House on medical costs.
The comment came after his administration announced it would recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president over Maduro.
Trump did not clarify what he meant by “all options.”
His administration has imposed several rounds of sanctions aimed at pressuring the government of Venezuela.
Three South American nations are recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.
The leaders of Brazil, Colombia, and Paraguay all quickly expressed their support after Guaido took a symbolic oath before thousands of supporters.
Colombia President Ivan Duque said his nation would accompany Guaido “in this process of transition toward democracy.”
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also said that he would support the 35-year-old lawmaker “so that peace and democracy return to Venezuela.”
Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez said on Twitter that his country supported Venezuela’s interim President Juan Guaido. “Count on us to embrace freedom and democracy again,” Abdo Benitez said.
Guaido says it is his right under Venezuela’s constitution to take over the presidency until new elections can be called.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was sworn into a contested second term two weeks ago in a move condemned by dozens of nations.
The Epoch Times Reporter Bowen Xiao contributed to this report.