Venezuela’s National Assembly president Juan Guaido gestures before a crowd of opposition supporters during an open meeting in Caraballeda, Vargas State, Venezuela, on January 13, 2019. – Getty

 

UPDATE: The White House has offered a safe exit strategy to Maduro if he leaves Venezuela peacefully.

The White House officially recognized Juan Guaido, President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, as the Interim President of Venezuela early Wednesday afternoon.

The acknowledgement comes after a morning of peaceful protests in many of Venezuela’s major cities calling for an end to the socialist regime of Nicolas Maduro. The situation in the embattled South American country, that has seen a mass exodus of over 3 million citizens over the last several years due to an extraordinary stagnation in economic prosperity and allegations of crimes against humanity, was documented Wednesday by Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R) on his official social media accounts.

Rubio, in addition to posting pictures of the protests, also issued a warning about potential violence to follow and a request that news outlets not be misled by Cuba’s possible role in any demonstrations that turn violent

The 35-year-old Guaido is the elected president of the Venezuela National Assembly, a body Maduro does not recognize, and has become the face of opposition to Maduro’s regime in recent months.

Peruvian newspaper El Comercio, one of the oldest Spanish-language newspapers in the world, quoted Guaido as expressing an intent to assume the powers of the presidency despite no formal change to Maduro’s status as president.

Juan Guidó, president of the National Assembly, was sworn in as interim president of Venezuela.

“I swear to assume the powers of the National Executive as president in charge”.

He did it on a platform in Chacao, Caracas, before a crowd of opponents of the Nicolás Maduro regime.

“Today, January 23, 2019, in my capacity as president of the AN, based on the Constitution, before Almighty God, Venezuela, respect for my colleagues, I swear to formally assume the powers of the national executive as the president in charge of Venezuela. The Venezuelans raise their right hand and we swear all together as men and women that we will not rest until we achieve freedom “

President Donald Trump issued a statement following Guaido’s announcement calling the National Assembly the “only legitimate branch of government” in Venezuela.

“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 Nicolas Maduro illegitimate, and the office of the presidency therefore vacant,” Trump said in a statement. “The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”

On January 18, it was reported that Venezuela’s military could turn against the Maduro regime and refuse to act against citizens protests. As of early Wednesday afternoon, several countries had backed Guaido.

By Wednesday afternoon, Maduro had given U.S. representatives working in the country 72 hours to vacate.