Venezuela's "acting president" Juan Guaidó said on Tuesday that the "final phases of Operation Freedom" are beginning, aimed at ending President Nicolas Maduro "usurpation" of power.
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Maduro's regime referred to the declaration as a "coup."
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated the U.S. government "fully supports the Venezeulan people in their quest for freedom and democracy."
Guaido is President of the National Assembly of Venezuela and is recognized as acting President of Venezuela by 54 governments.
President Trump recognized Venezuela’s opposition party leader Juan Guaidó as interim president of the poverty-stricken country in January, promising to use the “full weight” of U.S. power to press for the restoration of democracy in the country.
Countries around the globe have called Maduro an illegitimate dictator. Maduro is months into his second term as president, following controversial and contested elections over the summer.
Guaidó, who serves as leader of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, has called for protests, as the country spirals deeper into a severe economic crisis. The opposition-controlled Congress published a report stating the inflation rate rose more than 833,997 percent over the past year. The International Monetary Fund cautions inflation could reach 10 million percent in 2019.
As the opposition, gaining momentum, moves to oust Maduro, here’s what you need to know about Guaidó.
Guaidó is only 35 years old. He was relatively unknown on either the domestic or global stage until earlier this year when he was sworn in as president of the National Assembly. He gained more recognition when he said he was prepared to act as interim president until fair elections could be carried out in Venezuela.
Guaidó invoked protocol that can be legally taken under the country’s constitution whereby the head of the assembly can become national leader if the office of the president is wrongfully taken.
What he wants:
His promises to the people include facilitating new elections, taking steps to restore the country’s ailing economy, and distributing aid. Residents are plagued by food shortages and a lack of access to health care, among other basic necessities.
He has called out the current administration’s policies for creating a state of “terror” and pushed for Venezuelans to “dream of democracy, and for a better country.”
Guaidó is an industrial engineer, but public interest in his political persona has risen quickly. His Twitter following has surged to 1.9 million.
Prior to his current post, Guaidó served as an elected legislator in one of Venezuela’s 23 states in 2015.
His parents were a pilot and a teacher. Guaidó grew up in a family of eight children, The Washington Post reported.
This story was first published in January, updated on April 30.