Numerous governments in the Western Hemisphere quickly recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president of his crisis-torn country Wednesday.
The United States and all but one member of the Lima Group of regional nations threw their support behind Guaido after he declared himself interim president in a defiant speech before masses of anti-government demonstrators.
The declaration by the Lima Group, which has been vocal in denouncing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, was signed by Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay and Peru. Mexico was the only member to not sign.
The group said it supported the beginning of the process of a democratic transition in Venezuela following its constitution with aim of carrying out new elections as soon as possible. It also condemned acts of violence in Venezuela and made a call for peace.
U.S. President Donald Trump called on Maduro to resign and said the U.S. would use the “full weight” of its economic and diplomatic power to push for the restoration of Venezuela’s democracy.
Venezuelans have been suffering from an economic and governance crisis that has led millions to flee hyperinflation and severe shortages of food and medicine.
Paraguay was the first regional country to express support after Guaido took an oath before thousands of supporters.
“Count on us to embrace freedom and democracy again,” Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez said on Twitter.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Latin America’s largest nation also would support the 35-year-old lawmaker “so that peace and democracy return to Venezuela.”
There was no immediate reaction from Cuba, which is the top regional ally of Maduro, nor from Nicaragua, which is also close to Maduro’s socialist government.
Maduro was sworn into a contested second term two weeks ago in a move condemned by dozens of nations.
Guaido has said it is his right under Venezuela’s constitution to take over the presidency until new elections can be called. But not everyone backed his bold move.
Bolivian President Evo Morales condemned what he called an imperialist attack.
“Our solidarity with the Venezuelan people and Nicolas Maduro, in these decisive hours when the claws of imperialism are once again trying to deal a death blow on democracy and self-determination on the peoples of South America,” Morales tweeted. “We will not be the backyard of the U.S. again.”
A spokesman for Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Mexico continued to recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s president.
“We maintain our position of neutrality in the Venezuelan conflict,” Jesus Ramirez Cuevas told Mexico’s Milenio news television channel. “The Mexican government is analyzing the situation in Venezuela. Until now, there is no change in its diplomatic relations with that country nor with its government.”
Maduro responded to Guaido’s move by cutting off diplomatic relations with the U.S., the largest importer of Venezuelan oil, and announced that American diplomats had 72 hours to leave his country. He also heaped much of the blame for developments on U.S. imperialism and Colombia’s “oligarchy.”
Colombian President Ivan Duque said his nation would accompany Guaido “in this process of transition toward democracy so that the Venezuelan people can free themselves from the dictatorship.”
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