In escalation of tensions, Trump to recognize Venezuela’s opposition leader as head of government

Posted on: January 23rd, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In a sharp escalation of tensions, the Trump administration on Wednesday recognized the leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly as the head of government after he declared himself acting president in a rally with supporters.

The move is a strong rebuke of strongman Nicolas Maduro, the socialist president of Venezuela who was inaugurated for a second term earlier this month after an election the U.S. called a sham.

In a statement, President Trump recognized Juan Guaido, the president of the National Assembly, as acting president, calling the legislative body “the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people.”

“I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy,” Trump added.

Maduro has faced mounting protests as he has seized tighter political control, but at the same time has overseen a cratering of the country’s economy. Racked by shortages of food and medical supplies, millions of Venezuelans have fled across the border, creating a refugee crisis in Latin America.

While the crisis in Venezuela has unfolded over the last several months, Guaido has emerged in recent weeks as the head of the opposition after being elected president in December 2018.

The National Assembly voted to declare Maduro illegitimate and remove him from office this month, allowing Guaido to be chosen as acting head of state.

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