Trump Congratulates Guaido in Call, Keeping Pressure on Maduro

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump congratulated the leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaido, in a phone call on Wednesday for declaring himself the country’s interim president as the U.S. attempts to maintain pressure on Nicolas Maduro.

“Interim President Guaido thanked President Trump for the United States’ commitment to freedom and prosperity in Venezuela and the region, and noted the importance of the large protests across Venezuela against former dictator Maduro, set to occur today and Saturday,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement following the call.

“They agreed to maintain regular communication to support Venezuela’s path back to stability, and to rebuild the bilateral relationship between the United States and Venezuela,” Sanders said.

The U.S. and other countries recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s leader last week, and the Trump administration has moved rapidly to shore up his government-in-waiting. Earlier this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo granted Guaido access to Venezuelan accounts at U.S. financial institutions, and the administration has warned Maduro not to arrest or otherwise make a move against the opposition leader.

Maduro cut off diplomatic relations with the U.S. and ordered American diplomats out of the country last week, though the State Department chose to maintain a skeleton staff in the Caracas embassy.

The Trump administration increased pressure on Maduro this week, announcing sanctions on Venezuela’s central bank and the state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, effectively blocking his regime from exporting oil to the U.S.

Trump said Wednesday that following the sanctions, Maduro is open to negotiations with the opposition.

National Security Adviser John Bolton, in a Sunday tweet, warned that violence or intimidation against Guaido, the country’s National Assembly, or U.S. diplomats in Venezuela would be met by “a significant response.”

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