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Violent protests in Venezuela
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement Wednesday responding to Nicolás Maduro's demand that US diplomats to depart Venezuela in the next 72 hours.
Pompeo said the US will maintain diplomatic relations with Venezuela despite Maduro's order. He went on to say the US has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president.
"The United States 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. 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," Pompeo said.
Pompeo also issued this firm warning:
"The United States will take appropriate actions to hold accountable anyone who endangers the safety and security of our mission and its personnel."
Juan Guaido, who declared himself acting president of Venezuela, thanked President Trump for his support.
“On behalf of all #Venezuela I thank your commitment to support the Venezuelan’s people’s will," Guaido tweeted.
Guaido was responding to Trump's earlier tweet recognizing him as Venezuela's acting president.
A senior Trump administration official told CNN that Nicolás Maduro’s order for US diplomats to depart Venezuela “is meaningless.”
President Trump announced today that he is recognizing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela.
Following Trump's announcement, Maduro said he was officially breaking relations with the United States and said US diplomatic staff in Venezuela had 72 hours to leave.
National Assembly President Juan Guaido, who swore himself in as acting president of Venezuela earlier Wednesday, asking all embassies to “maintain their diplomatic presence in the country.”
Guaido issued a statement on his official Twitter account shortly after Nicolás Maduro ordered all consular staff to leave the country within the next 72 hours.
The statement, printed on National Assembly letterhead, was addressed to “all Embassies with presence in Venezuela."
Here's what Guaido wrote in the statement:
“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.”
Many foreign governments, including the United States, have expressed their support for Guaido assuming the role as acting president of Venezuela.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, responding to Nicolás Maduro order to expel all US diplomats from Venezuela, tweeted that they shouldn't leave the country.
The Republican lawmaker said Maduro wasn't authorized to make such a demand since he wasn't the country's legitimate president. (Earlier today, National Assembly President Juan Guaido swore himself in as President of Venezuela today before a massive crowd of supporters in Caracas.)
"Our diplomats leaving would be tacit acceptance of Maduro legitimacy. Under no circumstances should we leave," Rubio said.
Read the senator's tweet:
In a background call about Venezuela Wednesday, a senior Trump administration official said that “all options are on the table” with regards to possible future actions, including sanctions against the country.
The remarks comes as President Trump announced earlier that he is recognizing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela.
“In regards to the options, frankly in our sanctions, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what actually the United States can take from an economic sanctions front,” the senior administration official said.
CNN reported that depending on the severity of Nicolás Maduro's response, Trump is also prepared to take a range of actions to punish him, including possible oil sanctions, two sources familiar with White House deliberations said.
Later when asked about possible actions that the United States could take, the senior official reiterated:
“When we say all options are on the table, it means all options are on the table.”
“Now if they choose the route of violence and seek to usurp the constitutional order and democracy, let us be clear, that we have a host of options. We will take every single one of those options seriously,” the official cautioned.
“The message to Maduro and his cronies will be that — if that is the route they choose — it will be very clear to them … they will have no immediate future. They will have no immediate livelihood. And therefore, one way or another, have their days counted.”
Nicolás Maduro spoke from the balcony of Venezuela’s presidential palace Wednesday, where he announced he was officially breaking political and diplomatic relations with the US and ordered all consular staff to leave the country within the next 72 hours.
“The imperial government of the United States is leading a coup attempt against us in order to install a puppet presidency that they can control in Venezuela,” Maduro said during the speech, which was live on state broadcaster VTV.
“I have decided to break all political and diplomatic relations with the US. Get out! Leave Venezuela. We have (our) dignity dammit!” he said.
Organization of American States president Luis Almagro tweeted Wednesday his support for National Assembly President Juan Guaido moments after he swore himself in as president of Venezuela.
“We congratulate @jguaido as President in charge of #Venezuela. He has our full support and recognition to push the return of his country to democracy #23Jan #OaswithVenezuela," he tweeted.
The Organization of American States voted not to recognize President Nicolás Maduro’s second term as president of Venezuela during an extraordinary session on Jan. 10. The vote was 19 to 6, with eight abstentions and one absence.