Venezuela’s (former?) President Nicolás Maduro cut off diplomatic relations with the United States after the Trump administration recognized Juan Guaidó as the new president. Guaidó declared himself interim president on Wednesday and was sworn in by the Congress. Guaidó made his claim at a massive street rally in Caracas that was attended by tens of thousands of people.
Guaidó is the head of Venezuela’s national assembly and has emerged as one of the Maduro regime’s most vocal critics. He has called on the armed forces, which have thus far backed Maduro, to disobey the government. However, Venezuela’s defense minister condemned Guaidó.
If Guaidó succeeds, he has promised to hold free elections. President Trump needed only minutes to recognize Guaidó as the new president of Venezuela. His decision was joined by most of South America, including Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina and Paraguay. Canada has also backed Guaidó.
Guaidó declared himself leader following days of intense and widespread protests. Maduro, meanwhile, was sworn into a second term earlier this month. According to Trump, the only legitimate government in Venezuela is the Congress. While Maduro won an election last year, many have alleged that it was rigged in his favor. Numerous opponents were banned from running as well.
After the United States recognized Guaidó, Maduro promptly ordered diplomats out within 72 hours. Maduro claimed that Guaidó was attempting to stage a coup and that the United States was trying to govern Venezuela from afar. It’s unclear if the United States will heed the demands of Maduro regarding ousting diplomats.
Historically one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America, Venezuela has suffered a steep economic decline under Maduro. The country’s once thriving oil industry has collapsed following years of neglect. Meanwhile, hyper inflation has all but wiped out Venezuela’s currency and there are widespread shortages of basic goods.
This has sparked protests, but so far Maduro has managed to keep the army on his side. He has granted many military leaders top positions and has managed to keep the boots on the ground fed. So long as Maduro has the backing of the military, it’ll be difficult to push him from power.