American diplomats have 72 hours to abandon Venezuela

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech after being sworn-in for his second mandate, at the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) in Caracas on January 10, 2019. - Maduro begins a new term that critics dismiss as illegitimate, with the economy in free fall and the country more isolated than ever. (Photo by Yuri CORTEZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro is giving American diplomats 72 hours to abandon the country after breaking diplomatic relations with the U.S. over its decision to recognize an opposition leader as interim president.

“Before the people and nations of the world, and as constitutional president…..I’ve decided to break diplomatic and political relations with the imperialist U.S. government,” Maduro told a crowd of red-shirted supporters gathered at the presidential palace.

He made the announcement following a tumultuous day that saw Juan Guaido, the head of the opposition-controlled congress, declare himself interim president and call elections.

The move was immediately backed by the Trump administration, which said it was willing to use all its economic and diplomatic power to restore Venezuela’s democracy.

“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. The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law,” Trump said in a statement recognizing Guaido as interim president of Venezuela.

Maduro said in his speech the U.S. was making a “grave mistake” by trying to impose a president on Venezuela and rattled off a long list of countries _ Guatemala, Brazil, Chile and Argentina _ that saw leftist governments toppled or come under military rule during the Cold War with U.S. support.

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