US, UK say Venezuela's Maduro 'illegitimate', Russian Federation and Turkey express support

With Venezuela convulsed by crisis, Trump's hawks take dramatic turn

He then ordered the closure of his country's embassy and all consulates in the United States, escalating the war of words between the two leaders.

The Trump administration said Maduro's order isn't legal because the U.S.no longer recognizes him as Venezuela's legitimate leader.

US President Donald Trump, in a statement issued to local and worldwide media, said that 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 Maduro illegitimate, and the office of the presidency therefore vacant. Maduro has been heavily criticized by the US and others for consolidating power, cracking down on political opposition, and overseeing Venezuela's sharp economic decline, marked by food and medicine shortages and hyperinflation.

A member of Venezuela's Bolivarian National Police Special Forces Group (FAES) takes position during an operation.

Besides the U.S., Canada, much of Latin America and many countries in Europe threw their support behind Guaido.

"I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy", Trump said in his statement on Wednesday.

A deep depression marked by hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine has triggered an exodus of Venezuelans to surrounding countries. Maduro announced in February a year ago that Venezuela would launch an online currency called the petro, which would be backed by the value of one barrel of oil.

Normally, it's pretty clear who the President of a country is.

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Guaido, a photogenic 35-year-old lawmaker who has re-invigorated the opposition, has argued that three public sectors are critical to establishing a new government: The people, the global community and the military.

They pointed to Venezuela's constitution, which says in the event the presidency is determined to be vacant, elections should be called within 30 days, and the head of the congress should assume control of the government. But other countries, including Russia, Turkey, China, Iran and Syria, are backing Maduro.

"The United States stands with the people of Venezuela and the communities throughout the region that have generously taken in their neighbors during this time of crisis", the State Department declared.

Colina, the former army lieutenant, said even though many rank-and-file troops are going hungry like countless other Venezuelans, they don't have effective leadership to challenge superiors, meaning it's likely they'll opt for the status quo.

Several former military leaders who remain in close contact with active troops said that for Guaido to even have a chance of winning over support from sectors of the military, he'd have to continue to galvanize the public and prove to skeptical military officers with much to lose that his promise of granting amnesty to those who promote change is honest.

Citing contacts in a Russian state security structure, Shabayev said the contingent flew to Venezuela at the start of this week, a day or two before opposition protests started.

Many Venezuelans are awaiting Guaido's guidance on the often-beleaguered opposition's next steps.

Venitez, like Sarfatti, has family members all over the world who have left the deteriorating political climate in Venezuela.

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