Juan Guaidó and supporters speaking to crowd (© Fernando Llano/AP Images)
Juan Guaidó, president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, is now also the interim president of Venezuela. (© Fernando Llano/AP Images)

President Trump officially recognized Juan Guaidó, the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as the interim president of Venezuela.

“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 Trump said in a January 23 statement. “The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”

Venezuelans took to the streets on January 23 to protest the corruption and mismanagement of Maduro’s regime. The regime’s policies have led to hyperinflation, food shortages and a public health crisis in Venezuela.

January 23 is a date with special significance for Venezuelans as it marks the anniversary of the democratic revolution that overthrew a military regime in 1958.

In front of a large crowd at the Juan Pablo II Plaza in Caracas, Guaidó declared he would assume the responsibilities of interim president.

Maduro claimed victory after the May 2018 presidential election, but the U.S. considers the result fraudulent and “an attack on constitutional order and an affront to Venezuela’s tradition of democracy,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement then. Maduro has banned opposition parties, jailed political opponents and selectively distributed food to manipulate voters.

“The Venezuelan people have suffered long enough under Nicolas Maduro’s disastrous dictatorship. We call on Maduro to step aside in favor of a legitimate leader reflecting the will of the Venezuelan people,” Pompeo said in a statement January 23. “The United States supports President Guaidó as he establishes a transitional government and leads Venezuela, as the country prepares for free and fair elections.”