Caracas: Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro announced on Thursday he was breaking off diplomatic ties with the US after President Donald Trump recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as the South American country’s “interim President”. “I’ve decided to break diplomatic and political relations with the imperialist government of the United States,” said Maduro to thousands of supporters in Caracas. “Get out! Leave Venezuela, here there’s dignity, damn it,” he said, giving the US delegation 72 hours to quit the country.
Guaido, the head of the opposition-controlled legislature, caused a sensation on Wednesday when he told a crowd of tens of thousands of opposition supporters that he was declaring himself “acting President”. Trump was the first foreign leader to react and threw his backing behind Guaido, describing the National Assembly as “the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people”.
Speaking from a balcony at the presidential palace in Caracas, Maduro accused the US government of “attempting a coup d’etat”. “The extremist policy of the Trump govt against Venezuela is a very serious irresponsibility, it’s a very serious folly,” said Maduro. “Trying to impose a government by extra-constitutional means, we cannot accept that.”
He called on Venezuela’s state agencies to “close ranks” in favour of “democracy” and repeated his call for loyalty from the armed forces. “To my command, maximum loyalty, maximum unity, maximum discipline so that we win this battle together!” said Maduro. “Always loyal, never traitors!”
Meanwhile, the US upholded its decision to recognise Guaido as the interim President of Venezuela, stating beleaguered Maduro did not have the “legal authority to break diplomatic relations” with the US or declare its diplomats “persona non grata”. “The US maintains diplomatic relations with Venezuela and will conduct our relations with Venezuela through the government of interim President Guaido, who has invited our mission to remain in Venezuela,” a statement by Secy of State Michael Pompeo read.