Raising his right hand before a cheering crowd of supporters, Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president of Venezuela, called for new elections and put himself on a collision course with Nicolás Maduro, the country’s embattled but still powerful leader.
Guaidó, the 35-year-old president of the National Assembly, said it was his constitutional duty to take the reins of the troubled country and said he knew his act of defiance “would have consequences.”
Asked if he feared going to jail, as countless other political leaders have, Guaidó said, “I’m not worried about that, I’m worried about our people who are suffering.”
The White House quickly recognized Guaidó’s authority in a statement.
“In its role as the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people, the National Assembly invoked the country’s constitution to declare Nicolas Maduro illegitimate, and the office of the presidency therefore vacant,” President Donald Trump said in a statement. “The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”
The announcement came during a massive anti-government demonstration in Venezuela Wednesday amid speculation about what Guaidó — a political newcomer — might do next.
Maduro, who began a new six-year term on Jan. 10, has accused the opposition, Washington and others of trying to illegally topple his socialist administration.