In what may shape up to be a major international incident over the next 48 hours, the United States has refused to withdraw diplomats from Venezuela, saying in a Wednesday evening statement that the US "stands with interim President Juan Guaido," adding "The United States does not recognize the Maduro regime as the government of Venezuela. Accordingly 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.
U.S. will conduct diplomatic relations with #Venezuela through the government of interim President Guaido. U.S. does not recognize the #Maduro regime. U.S. does not consider former president Maduro to have the legal authority to break diplomatic relations. https://t.co/DBS4GiGEWI pic.twitter.com/gQZJuS1xfn— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 24, 2019
Earlier Wednesday, Maduro broke diplomatic relations with the US, giving American diplomats 72 hours to leave Caracas after President Trump declared Maduro's political opponent, Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaido, the Interim President of Venezuela.
Guaido responded with a tweet of appreciation.
The citizens of Venezuela have suffered for too long at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime. Today, I have officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela. https://t.co/WItWPiG9jK— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2019
14 other countries have similarly recognized Guaido.
Recognising Juan Guaido as president of Venezuela:— The Spectator Index (@spectatorindex) January 23, 2019
- Costa Rica
Cuba and Bolivia, meanwhile, have expressed support for Maduro - while Mexico remains on the fence, supporting the empanada-eating Maduro "for now."
Guaido - who swore himself in as acting president of Venezuela earlier Wednesday, asked all embassies to "maintain their diplomatic presence in the country."
"Through the powers that the Constitution grants me, I would like to communicate to all leaders of diplomatic missions and their accredited staff in Venezuela — the state of Venezuela firmly wants you to maintain your diplomatic presence in our country. Any messages to the contrary lack any validity, since they come from people or entities that have been characterized as usurpers. They have no legitimate authority to make any statements on this." -Juan Guaido
The United Nations is monitoring the situation according to UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq during a Wednesday briefing.
"The United Nations firmly rejects any kind of political violence. We underline the urgent need for all relevant actors to commit to inclusive and credible political negotiations to address the challenges facing the country, with full respect for the rule of law and human rights," said Haq in a statement.
Venezuelans, meanwhile, took to the streets en masse during a day of unrest in which pro-Maduro forces fired live rounds into the crowds killing several people.
Venezuela’s opposition filling streets nationwide today in protests against President Maduro and his socialist government. pic.twitter.com/IjzXdd6aOh— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 23, 2019
⚠️ DISTURBING FOOTAGE:— BNL NEWS (@BreakingNLive) January 23, 2019
BREAKING: At least 4 people have been killed after pro-Maduro forces opened fire at anti-Maduro protesters in the city of Barinas