Fears of US-Backed 'Coup' in Motion as Trump Recognizes Venezuela Opposition Lawmaker as 'Interim President'

President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela officially cut off dipomatic ties with the U.S. government on Wednesday—and gave American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country—in response to President Donald Trump declaring formal recognition of an opposition lawmaker as the “Interim President” of Venezuela, despite not being elected by the nation’s people for that position.

“They intend to govern Venezuela from Washington. Do you want a puppet government controlled by Washington?”
—Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro”Before the people and nations of the world, and as constitutional president,” declared Maduro to a crowd of red-shirted supporters gathered outside the presidential residence in Caracas, “I’ve decided to break diplomatic and political relations with the imperialist U.S. government.”

According to the Associated Press:

In a prepared White House statement earlier in the day, Trump declared he was “officially recognizing the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela.”

In addition to vowing to “use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power” to restore what he called “democracy” in the country, Trump also encouraged “other Western Hemisphere governments” to recognize Guaido. Shortly later, CBC News reported that Canada, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, was making plans to follow Trump’s lead.

In his remarks from Caracas, Maduro told his supporters “the very existence of our Bolivarian republic” was under threat and urged them to resist “at all costs” what he explicitly described as a “coup” attempt by the “interventionist gringo empire” and the “fascist right” within his own country.

“They intend to govern Venezuela from Washington,” Maduro declared. “Do you want a puppet government controlled by Washington?”

Critics of U.S. imperialism and its long history of anti-democratic manuevers in Latin American expressed immediate alarm on Wednesday after Trump’s announcement. And what Trump identified as “democracy,” critics of the move instead used Maduro’s description: “coup.”

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), called the latest moves by the Trump administration a “disgrace.”

“It’s acceleration of the Trump administration’s efforts at regime change in Venezuela,” said Weisbrot. “We all know how well that strategy has worked out in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria—not to mention that hundreds of thousands of people in Latin American have been killed by U.S.-sponsored regime change in Latin America since the 1970s.”

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT