Venezuela opposition leader declares himself interim president

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Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself the country’s interim president on Wednesday before thousands of demonstrators cheering in support. 

“I swear to formally assume the powers of the Presidency of Venezuela,” the 35-year-old politician said as he raised his right hand. 

The move comes as tens of thousands march around Venezuela demanding that Nicolas Maduro steps down from power. Counter-rallies are also being held. 

Maduro was sworn in for a contested second term two weeks ago but has been met by international condemnation.

Trump recognises Guaido as president

Shortly after Guaido swore himself in, US President Donald Trump officially recognised Guaido as president.  

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In its role as the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people, the National Assembly invoked the country’s constitution to declare Nicolas Maduro illegitimate, and the office of the presidency therefore vacant” Trump said.

“The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law,” he added. 

The leader of the Organization of American States (OAS) also recoginised Guaido as the acting president. 

A Canadian government official told Reuters news agency that Ottawa will also recognise Guaido as president. 

Maduro maintains that his presidency is legitimate and accuses the United States and other countries of waging an “economic war” to remove him from power. 

On Tuesday, he ordered a “revision” of Venezuela’s diplomatic relations with the United States. The order came after US Vice President Mike Pence declared support for anti-government protesters and opposition leaders. 

Maduro’s government has yet to respond to Guaido’s latest move. His government has accused Guaido of staging a coup and has threatened him with jail.

Anti-government protests

Anti-government demonstrators clogged avenues in eastern Caracas on Wednesday, chanting “Get out, Maduro” and “Guaido, Presidente,” while waving national flags.

Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters in several areas. A rally the night before left four people reported dead, an echo of tumultuous riots two years ago.





Opposition supporters take part in a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government and to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the end of the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez in Caracas, Venezuela [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]

The opposition has been energised by young congress chief Guaido, who has led a campaign to declare Maduro a usurper and has promised a transition to a new government in a nation suffering a hyperinflationary economic collapse.

Maduro was inaugurated on January 10 to another term in office following a widely boycotted election last year that many foreign governments described as a fraudulent. 

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