Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro responded to President Trump's recognition of his political challenger as interim president by severing diplomatic ties.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.S. recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as that country’s rightful leader on Wednesday, hours after the 35-year-old parliamentarian claimed the title of interim president during mass anti-government demonstrations.
Earlier this month, Guaido took over as president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, an opposition-controlled parliament that President Nicolás Maduro no longer recognizes.
Last week, the National Assembly declared Maduro a “usurper” of power, and Guaido repeated that term on Wednesday, telling supporters he only wished “to achieve the end of the usurpation” and organize fair elections.
Jason Marczak directs the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center and credits Guaido with uniting those frustrated with Maduro and using constitutional avenues to challenge him for power.
“Juan Guaido has only been president of the National Assembly now for just over two weeks, and he has done what has bedeviled many in the opposition in the past, which is at a key moment for the country bringing together the divergent viewpoints for one cohesive message.”
Unsurprisingly, there’s a warrant out for Guaido’s arrest, and while Marczak says Guaido’s legitimacy and physical safety ultimately derive from his widespread popularity within Venezuela, foreign countries also have a role to play.
“It’s more important than ever that the international community join in support of him, because what I also fear for is a ratcheting up of oppression by the Maduro regime.”
Brazil and Canada have joined the U.S. in recognizing Guaido, and Marczak says those countries could start seizing Venezuelan state assets like those of oil giant CITGO and sending that money back to the National Assembly, giving Guaido the means to actually govern.
And should Guaido get that far, he’ll need all the help he can get.
“Venezuela is in the midst of a horrific humanitarian crisis — lack of food, lack of medicine, sky-high inflation rates, rampant insecurity across the country. What’s going to be so critical in the short term is showing the Venezuelan people that actions can be taken to improve their day-to-day lives.”