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  • Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro faces the most direct challenge to his nearly-six years in power.

  • Today, as Nick Schifrin reports, the U.S. and more than a half-a-dozen other countries recognized Juan Guaido, currently the head of Venezuela's National Assembly, as the country's legitimate president.

  • On a stage in downtown Caracas, in front of a crowd of thousands, 35-year-old Juan Guaido raised his right hand and administered his own oath of office.

  • I swear to formally assume the powers of the national executive as the president in charge of Venezuela.

  • Around the capital and country today, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Venezuelans rallied in support of Guaido and called for a change in government.

  • That is why we are here, to support our National Assembly, the only legitimate power for the 14 million Venezuelans.

  • Nuns demanded freedom, and other protesters demanded President Nicolas Maduro step down.

  • Your time is up, and your Cabinet's.

  • Understand this: Venezuela has outgrown you.

  • Venezuelans have protested before, but this time the usually fractured opposition has a consensus leader.

  • Until recently, Guaido was relatively unknown.

  • But he has crisscrossed the country speaking against Maduro, asking for support from the international community, and Venezuela's powerful military.

  • We are not asking you to mount a coup, or to shoot.

  • On the contrary, we are asking you not to shoot at us, and defend together with us the right of our people to be heard.

  • His calls have been heard.

  • On Monday, National Guardsmen posted cell phone videos declaring Maduro illegitimate and calling for protests.

  • MIKE PENCE, Vice President of the United States: We say to all the good people of Venezuela, estamos con ustedes.

  • Yesterday, Vice President Pence promised the U.S. would be with the protesters.

  • And today, in a statement, President Trump endorsed Guaido as interim president and said: "The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law."

  • MOISES RENDON, Center for Strategic and International Studies: This is one of the most historic days for Venezuelan modern history.

  • Moises Rendon is an associate director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

  • He says Guaido's announcement today, and President Trump's endorsement, allows the U.S. to redirect payments for Venezuelan oil, which accounts for 90 percent of Venezuela's GDP.

  • Every single asset, every single bank account, every single contract, all the management of this republic's assets will be transferred to the National Assembly and to Juan Guaido.

  • But Maduro is pushing back.

  • Today, he cut off diplomatic relations with the U.S., and gave U.S. diplomats 72 hours to leave the country.

  • NICOLAS MADURO, Venezuelan President: Do not trust the gringo empire.

  • The gringos do not have friends, nor are they loyal to anyone.

  • The gringos have interests, Venezuelan oil, Venezuelan gas, Venezuelan gold.

  • But, to that empire, we say that oil, that gas, that gold is not yours.

  • It was just two weeks ago Maduro was inaugurated and swore to build what he called 21st century socialism.

  • But he has built an economic catastrophe.

  • Venezuela used to be Latin America's wealthiest country.

  • Caracas residents have demanded access to a supermarket, even if the shelves were empty because of a shortage of food.

  • Medical patients have protested a shortage of medicine.

  • And children play in the dark because of a shortage of power.

  • It's been an economic freefall, the product of falling oil prices and failed economic policies.

  • Bills have became so worthless, women turned them into art.

  • Inflation could hit 10 million percent.

  • All of it sparked the region's largest ever exodus.

  • More than 3.5 million Venezuelans have fled their homes and created a humanitarian crisis that increased regional criminality.

  • It represents a humanitarian and a security crisis; the region that is impacting not only neighboring countries, but like the U.S. as well.

  • The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Maduro and his leadership.

  • U.S. officials say, depending on Maduro's response today, they could impose an oil export embargo that would likely collapse the state.

  • Instead, U.S. officials hope Maduro heeds the protests, and the military withdraws its support.

  • Maduro will fight, but he faces a perfect storm of economic pressure, international condemnation, a popular opponent, and the mobilization of his own people.

  • For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro faces the most direct challenge to his nearly-six years in power.

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After challenge to Maduro's legitimacy, what's next for Venezuela?

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    April Lu posted on 2019/02/10
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