The Trump administration has formally denounced Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as a dictator and declared the National Assembly as the country's legitimate government.
What are the details?
In a pre-recorded video address, Vice President Mike Pence told the Venezuelan people:
Nicolás Maduro is a dictator, with no legitimate claim to power. He's never won the presidency in a free and fair election. And he's maintained his grip of power by imprisoning anyone who dares to oppose him. The United States joins with all freedom-loving nations in recognizing the National Assembly as the last vestige of democracy in your country, for it's the only body elected by you, the people.
This comes just a week after Venezuela's Congress declared Maduro a usurper, following a highly disputed election. According to the Venezuelan Constitution, the presidency would then go to the head of the National Assembly, a man named Juan Guaido. The National Assembly also encouraged foreign governments to increase pressure on Maduro's regime.
In his address, Pence called on Guaido to lead a transitional government.
How did Maduro respond?
Maduro dismissed the notion that Guaido could replace him, saying mockingly in a speech, "I'm going to give you the sash, big boy, to see what you do with the country,"
Maduro came to power in 2013 following the death of his mentor Hugo Chavez. He was re-elected in May 2018 with 68 percent of the vote. Maduro secured his victory by tracking those who voted and promising he would supply their starving families with food if he won re-election. This election has been denounced by opposition leaders and the international community as being illegitimate.