The U.S. on Wednesday stepped up support for Venezuela’s opposition-dominated National Assembly to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power.
“We congratulate, recognise and support the courage of Venezuela’s National Assembly to formally declare Maduro ‘usurper’ of democracy & to transfer executive responsibilities to the National Assembly,” Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, tweeted.
On Tuesday, the National Assembly declared Maduro’s second term illegitimate, his acts as president invalid, and said the constitution required the assembly’s speaker Juan Guaido to take over as Venezuela’s interim president.
Maduro was sworn in last week in a ceremony boycotted by all but a handful of presidents following a May 20 election widely regarded as undemocratic.
Pompeo’s comments followed those of Vice President Mike Pence, who published a statement saying he had spoken to Guaido “to recognise his courageous leadership following his arrest and intimidation this weekend.”
Guaido was held by alleged members of the intelligence service Sebin, and soon released amid an international outcry on Sunday.
Pence said he had expressed to Guaido “the U.S. absolute support for the National Assembly of Venezuela as the only legitimate democratic body in the country.”
“Vice President Pence encouraged Mr Guaido to build unity among political groups, and pledged continued support from the U.S. until democracy is restored,” according to the statement, which was published on Pence’s Twitter account.
Venezuela’s ally Russia said it was alarmed by the possibility of U.S. military involvement in the country.
“We have heard suggestions that point toward [US] military involvement in Venezuela and suggestions that the U.S. will not recognise Nicolas Maduro as the president of Venezuela,” the newspaper Moscow Times quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Wednesday.
“All this is very alarming,” Lavrov added.
U.S. President Donald Trump said in 2017 that Washington was considering a “military option” in Venezuela.
In December, two Russian bombers with nuclear capacity landed in Caracas, which was interpreted by some as a move to defend Venezuela against a possible Western attack.
Argentina and Brazil meanwhile criticized Venezuela’s government as illegitimate.
“Maduro is a dictator who wants to cling to power through fictional elections,” Argentinian President Mauricio Macri said at a joint news conference with his Brazilian counterpart, Jair Bolsonaro, in Brasilia on Wednesday.
The two countries only recognise the legitimacy of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Macri added.