Today, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself the president of the country, striking a blow against President Nicolás Maduro. President Trump and other international leaders quickly announced that they recognize Guaidó as Venezuela’s official leader.
Maduro responded by breaking diplomatic ties with the U.S. and ordering our diplomats to leave the capital city Caracas within 72 hours. Now, according to the Washington Post, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the U.S. will not be following Maduro’s order to remove the diplomats.
“The United States does not recognize the Maduro regime as the government of Venezuela,” Pompeo’s statement said. “Accordingly 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.”
“The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law,” Trump wrote in a statement. “I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy.”
Trump told reporters today that the U.S. was not actively considering military action against Venezuela, though he left the possibility open.
“We’re not considering anything, but all options on the table,” he said. “All options, always, all options are on the table.”
Guaidó, 35, is an industrial engineer who was recently named the head of the country’s National Assembly. On the street in Caracas today, in front of a mass of protesters, Guaidó declared himself the “president in charge.”
“We will stay on the street until Venezuela is liberated!” he said.
Maduro, who has been in power since 2013, succeeded former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who oversaw the country’s shift to socialism.
Many international groups considered Venezuela’s 2017 elections to a power grab on the part of Maduro. The U.S. responded with sanctions against the president. Guaidó has promised that he will hold open elections if Maduro is ousted.
Some spectators, however, see Guaidó’s claim to power and the international support he received as a preamble to another in a long line of U.S.-backed Central and South American coups that have installed governments friendly to U.S. interests and free market capitalism in the region.
It seems that sentiments on the ground in Venezuela, where Maduro has remained deeply ingrained in government, may be changing. For many years, opposition to Venezuela’s socialists governments has come mostly from the upper classes, and they still constitute much of the U.S.-backed opposition’s support. But according to the Post, working class Venezuelans are beginning to revolt as well, starting demonstrations in Caracas’ slums.
“I’m tired,” Gladys Ibarra, a 40-year-old informal merchant protesting in a Caracas slum, told the Post. “I’m tired of not having water, energy. Tired of waking up at dawn trying to find gas to cook.”