President Donald Trump has said the US is recognising the president of Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly as the country’s interim president.
The Trump administration has been moving toward such a declaration of support for Juan Guaido ever since Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a contested second term two weeks ago.
Mr Guaido declared himself the interim president before thousands of cheering supporters on Wednesday.
President @realDonaldTrump has officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela.— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 23, 2019
US Vice President Mike Pence this week said Mr Maduro is a dictator who did not win the presidency in free and fair elections.
Mr Trump said in Wednesday’s statement that Venezuelans have “courageously spoken” against Mr Maduro and for freedom and the rule of law.
Venezuelans are marching in the streets to demand that Mr Maduro step down, citing spiralling inflation, a shortage of basic goods and a migration crisis that is dividing families.
Large crowds of protesters gathered in Caracas waving flags and chanting “Get out Maduro!” in what was shaping up to be the largest demonstration since a wave of unrest that left more than 120 dead in 2017.
“Venezuela is reborn on the streets today, searching for freedom and democracy,” Mr Guaido, the 35-year-old opposition leader who has sprung into the limelight since taking the helm of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared on Twitter.
Pro-government demonstrators dressed in red in support of Mr Maduro were also marching in the capital, at times crossing paths with opposition protesters and shouting “sell-outs” and “traitors”.
National guardsmen launched tear gas at anti-government protesters in the middle-class neighbourhood of El Paraiso but for the most part the marches continued without conflict.
“Join us!” the protesters cried out to a line of officers wearing helmets and carrying shields.
“You are also living this crisis!”
- Press Association