- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2019

On the eve of nationwide protests in Venezuela, Vice President Mike Pence declared official U.S. support Tuesday for opposition leader Juan Guaido and called on Venezuelans to “raise your voices” against socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

“On behalf of President Donald Trump and all the American people, let me express the unwavering support of the United States as you, the people of Venezuela, raise your voices in a call for freedom,” Mr. Pence said in a recorded video message. “Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power. He has never won the presidency in a free and fair election, and has maintained his grip on power by imprisoning anyone who dares to oppose him.”

Venezuela’s opposition plans to hold marches nationwide Wednesday in an annual event marking the fall of a military government in 1958.

Maduro was sworn into another term as Venezuela’s president this month.

Many countries condemned Venezuela’s elections as illegitimate and have moved to distance themselves diplomatically.

Mr. Pence announced U.S backing for National Assembly leader Mr. Guaido, who he called the “last vestige of democracy.”

“As you make your voices heard tomorrow, on behalf of the American people, we say to all the good people of Venezuela: estamos con ustedes,” Mr. Pence said, using Spanish phrases. “We are with you, we stand with you, and we will stay with you until democracy is restored and you reclaim your birthright of libertad.”

The country has been saddled with food shortages, high inflation and violence. Opposition to the Maduro government has been increasing.

Florida Republican lawmakers and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis met with President Trump at the White House Tuesday for discussions that included Venezuela and Cuba. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said lawmakers urged Mr. Trump to declare Mr. Guaido as the U.S.-recognized president of Venezuela.

“The guy who claims to be president now was not elected under that constitution and under their constitution, when there’s a vacancy in the presidency, the rightful president is the president of the national assembly, pending a new election,” Mr. Rubio said. “We encouraged the president today to follow through with what he’s already declared, which is that Maduro is illegitimate. The next logical step is to recognize the president of the national assembly as the rightful president.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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