“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,” Trump said in a statement recognizing Guaido as interim president of Venezuela.
Trump also urged other governments to recognize Guaido, adding that he “will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy.”
Trump continued by saying his administration will “continue to hold the illegitimate Maduro regime directly responsible for any threats it may pose to the safety of the Venezuelan people.”
The move comes nearly two weeks after Maduro was inaugurated for a second term that the US, dozens of other countries and the Venezuelan opposition have decried as illegitimate. Since then, Trump had mulled recognizing Guaido — the president of the National Assembly — as the country’s legitimate president, and top Trump administration officials gradually ratcheted up their public statements, laying the groundwork for this step.
Those deliberations came to a head this week as Venezuelans took to the streets in nationwide protests on Wednesday and with increased speculation that Guaido would formally swear himself in as the country’s President, citing a provision in the country’s constitution.
The White House is closely monitoring the protests and Maduro’s response. On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence issued a message of support to Venezuelans planning to take to the streets, saying they…