Maduro says Venezuela is breaking relations with US, gives American diplomats 72 hours to leave country

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president on Wednesday, winning over the backing of the Washington and many Latin American nations and prompting socialist Nicolas Maduro to break relations with the United States.

Speaking to supporters outside the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, socialist leader Maduro said he would give U.S. diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave Venezuela, which is suffering from a hyperinflationary economic collapse.

U.S. President Donald Trump formally recognized Guaido shortly after his announcement and praised his plan to hold elections. That was swiftly followed by similar statements from Canada and a slew of right-leaning Latin American governments, including Venezuela’s neighbors Brazil and Colombia.

Trump Idiot

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that it would not remove American diplomats because it did not recognize the Maduro regime as the government of Venezuela: “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.”

At a rally that brought hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans into the east of Caracas, Guaido said Maduro had usurped power and promised to create a transitional government that would help the country escape its hyperinflationary economic collapse.

“I swear to assume all the powers of the presidency to secure an end to the usurpation,” 35-year old Guaido, the head of the opposition-run congress, told an exuberant crowd.

Guaido’s declaration takes Venezuela into uncharted territory, with the possibility of the opposition now running a parallel government recognized abroad as legitimate but without control over state functions.

In a televised broadcast from the presidential palace, Maduro accused the opposition of seeking to stage a coup with the support of the United States, which he said was seeking to govern Venezuela from Washington.

“We’ve had enough interventionism, here we have dignity, damn it! Here is a people willing to defend this land,” said Maduro, flanked by top Socialist Party leaders, although the defense minister and members of the military high command were absent. The office of Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino did not answer a phone call seeking comment.

Venezuela, graced with the world’s largest oil reserves, was once the economic envy of South America. The oil-rich nation faces a collapsing economy sparked by government corruption, social unrest and a global commodity bust.

And despite the nation’s economic crisis, Maduro welcomed the deployment of two Russian Tu-160 strategic bombers. The Russian aircraft, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, landed in Caracas last month in a move designed to show Moscow’s support of Venezuela’s socialist regime.

The Pentagon swiftly criticized the Russian deployment of warplanes to Venezuela.

“The Venezuelan government should be focusing on providing humanitarian assistance and aid to lessen the suffering of its people and not on Russian warplanes,” Pentagon spokesman U.S. Army Col. Rob Manning said last month.

Similarly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the Russian military flight on Twitter writing: “The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”

Meanwhile, the Kremlin rejected U.S. criticism saying Pompeo was wrong and undiplomatic to condemn the deployment to Caracas.

“We consider it completely inappropriate,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said following the deployment.

Manning then reminded that the U.S. military deployed the hospital ship USNS Comfort to South America earlier this year to provide humanitarian aid to refugees fleeing the desperate conditions.

Marco Bello | Reuters
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president on Wednesday, winning over the backing of the Washington and many Latin American nations and prompting socialist Nicolas Maduro to break relations with the United States.

Speaking to supporters outside the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, socialist leader Maduro said he would give U.S. diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave Venezuela, which is suffering from a hyperinflationary economic collapse.

U.S. President Donald Trump formally recognized Guaido shortly after his announcement and praised his plan to hold elections. That was swiftly followed by similar statements from Canada and a slew of right-leaning Latin American governments, including Venezuela’s neighbors Brazil and Colombia.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that it would not remove American diplomats because it did not recognize the Maduro regime as the government of Venezuela: “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.”

Trump recognizes opposition leader as Venezuelan president  

At a rally that brought hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans into the east of Caracas, Guaido said Maduro had usurped power and promised to create a transitional government that would help the country escape its hyperinflationary economic collapse.

“I swear to assume all the powers of the presidency to secure an end to the usurpation,” 35-year old Guaido, the head of the opposition-run congress, told an exuberant crowd.

Guaido’s declaration takes Venezuela into uncharted territory, with the possibility of the opposition now running a parallel government recognized abroad as legitimate but without control over state functions.

In a televised broadcast from the presidential palace, Maduro accused the opposition of seeking to stage a coup with the support of the United States, which he said was seeking to govern Venezuela from Washington.

“We’ve had enough interventionism, here we have dignity, damn it! Here is a people willing to defend this land,” said Maduro, flanked by top Socialist Party leaders, although the defense minister and members of the military high command were absent. The office of Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino did not answer a phone call seeking comment.

The Kremlin’s support for Venezuela

Mikhail Metzel | TASS |Getty Images
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro shakes hands with his Russia counterpart Vladimir Putin during a meeting at the Moscow Kremlin.

Venezuela, graced with the world’s largest oil reserves, was once the economic envy of South America. The oil-rich nation faces a collapsing economy sparked by government corruption, social unrest and a global commodity bust.

And despite the nation’s economic crisis, Maduro welcomed the deployment of two Russian Tu-160 strategic bombers. The Russian aircraft, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, landed in Caracas last month in a move designed to show Moscow’s support of Venezuela’s socialist regime.

The Pentagon swiftly criticized the Russian deployment of warplanes to Venezuela.

“The Venezuelan government should be focusing on providing humanitarian assistance and aid to lessen the suffering of its people and not on Russian warplanes,” Pentagon spokesman U.S. Army Col. Rob Manning said last month.

Similarly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the Russian military flight on Twitter writing: “The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”

Meanwhile, the Kremlin rejected U.S. criticism saying Pompeo was wrong and undiplomatic to condemn the deployment to Caracas.

“We consider it completely inappropriate,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said following the deployment.

Manning then reminded that the U.S. military deployed the hospital ship USNS Comfort to South America earlier this year to provide humanitarian aid to refugees fleeing the desperate conditions.

U.S. Navy photo
The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort is anchored off the coast of Tumaco, Colombia, during Continuing Promise 2011.

Since its deployment this summer, the Comfort, a vessel transformed from a hulking oil tanker into a 1,000-bed hospital ship, has treated more than 20,000 people along its stops in various Central and South American nations.

“Contrast this with Russia, whose approach to the man-made disaster in Venezuela is to send bomber aircraft instead of humanitarian assistance,” Manning said knocking Moscow’s deployment.

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