Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim President on Wednesday, winning over the backing of the Washington and many Latin American nations and prompting current President Nicolas Maduro to break relations with the United States, CNBC reports.
Addressing supporters outside the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, socialist leader Maduro said he would give U.S. diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave Venezuela, which is suffering from a hyperinflationary economic collapse.
“The gringos don’t have friends. They aren’t loyal to anyone,” Maduro said as his audience cheered.
The U.S., he said, wants to intervene in Venezuelan politics to seize Venezuela’s oil, gas, and gold reserves. Maduro said Guaido’s presidency is being imposed by “the imperialist government of the U.S.” in order to establish a “puppet” government in Venezuela, Business Insider writes.
“Can we Venezuelans sit back and watch as Washington imposes a president in Venezuela?” he asked the crowd, which yelled back “no”.
U.S. President Donald Trump formally recognized Guaido shortly after his announcement and praised his plan to hold elections. This was swiftly followed by similar statements from Canada and a slew of right-leaning Latin American governments, including Venezuela’s neighbors Brazil and Colombia.
But Russia, China, Iran, Syria and Turkey have voiced their backing for Maduro’s government, Washington Post informs. China’s Foreign Ministry called on the United States to stay out of the crisis, while Russia’s deputy foreign minister warned the U.S. against any military intervention in Venezuela.
Some Russian officials reacted with anger to the opposition protests. Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the information committee at the Russian Federation Council, called Guaido’s declaration “an attempted coup” backed by the U.S.
The U.S. State Department said in a statement that it would not remove American diplomats because it did not recognize the Maduro regime as the government of Venezuela: “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.”