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US-backed Venezuelan opposition leader swears himself in as president while protests against Maduro erupt

President Donald Trump issues statement recognizing Juan Guaido as country's leader

Venezuelan National Assembly leader Juan Guaido. (FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido swore himself in as the country's interim president Wednesday, while tens of thousands of citizens took to the streets in protest of Nicolas Maduro's socialist government. President Donald Trump also issued a statement recognizing Guaido as the country's legitimate leader.

What are the details?

Guaido is the leader of Venezuela's Congress, which voted last week to declare Maduro a usurper. Under the country's constitution, the absence of a legitimate president means the leader of the National Assembly can step into the role.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration declared Maduro a dictator, and the president himself issued a statement Wednesday officially recognizing Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela.

Agence France-Presse reported that Brazil, Colombia, and the Organization of American States all shortly followed suit in recognizing Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate leader. Reuters reported that Chile, Peru, and Paraguay also announced their recognition of the opposition leader as interim president, while Mexico still recognizes Maduro "for the time being."

What's happening with the protests?

Fox News reported that tens of thousands of Venezuelans participated in demonstrations across the country on Wednesday, protesting against Maduro's policies that have left the country in shambles with staggering inflation, near-worthless currency, and widespread shortages of basic goods.

Speaking to supporters in Caracas, Guaido said, "Brothers and sisters: Today I step forward with you in the knowledge that we are in a dictatorship."

He told the crowd, "I swear to formally assume the national executive powers as acting president of Venezuela to end the usurpation, (install) a transitional government and hold free elections," AFP reported.

Following President Trump's announcement, Maduro told supporters he is breaking diplomatic relations with the U.S. and says American diplomats have 72 hours to get out of the country, according to The Associated Press.

When protests erupted in 2017, Maduro unleashed the national guard against demonstrators, leaving at least 120 dead, The Guardian reported.

According to the BBC, four people were killed in clashes ahead of Wednesday's protests.

One last thing…
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