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Trump backs big ‘protests against ex-dictator Maduro’ as he talks with Venezuela opposition’s Guaido

Trump backs big ‘protests against ex-dictator Maduro’ as he talks with Venezuela opposition’s Guaido
Venezuela’s opposition leader and self-declared ‘interim president’ Juan Guaido chatted by phone with US President Donald Trump, with Trump giving the thumbs up to “large protests” against “former dictator Maduro.”

The phone call occurred Wednesday as anti-government demonstrators in Venezuela were about to take to the streets for the second time in a week. Trump “noted the importance” of the protests against “former dictator Maduro,” and vowed “strong support for Venezuela’s fight to regain its democracy,” according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

Nicolas Maduro remains Venezuela’s elected leader, despite a number of countries declaring their support for Guaidó’s claim as the acting head.

Trump, meanwhile, congratulated Guaidó on his “historic assumption of the presidency.” Neither President Maduro or predecessor Hugo Chavez ever received a phone call from a US president after election.

Guaidó said that Trump offered his “full support for our democratic work, commitment to humanitarian aid and recognition of...our presidency.”

Riding a wave of civil unrest, the head of the anti-Maduro National Assembly swore himself in as interim president last Wednesday, calling Maduro’s election last May “illegitimate.” Since then, the US has been quick to support the 35-year-old and equally quick to threaten Maduro.

Trump recognized Guaidó within an hour of his announcement, with Venezuela’s neighbors with right-wing governments following suit later that day. Several EU countries have threatened to recognize Guaidó unless a presidential election is called within days - something Maduro outright rejected.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged $20 million in humanitarian aid to Guaidó’s fledgling government, and gave the opposition leader access to Venezuelan assets held in US banks.

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Maduro has been warned by Washington not to harm Guaidó, with National Security Adviser John Bolton threatening “serious consequences” if the US-sponsored leader is harmed. The embattled president has also faced calls from European nations to hold fresh elections and has been denied access to billions of dollars of his country’s gold reserves held in the UK.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also announced on Monday that the US would seize all assets of Venezuela’s oil company PDVSA, and channel them into accounts that would be accessible only by Guaidó or a new government which the US approves of.

Maduro has denounced Washington’s sponsorship of Guaidó as a “vile” coup attempt, but has said that he is willing to enter into talks with the opposition.

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