“The United Kingdom believes Juan Guaido is the right person to take Venezuela forward. We are supporting the US, Canada, Brazil and Argentina to make that happen,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement.
While the European Union stopped short of recognising Mr Guaido, Antonio Tajani, head of the European parliament, said it was he who enjoyed “democratic legitimacy”. Mr Maduro’s victory in last year’s election was not “free and fair”, Mr Tajani added.
But states including Russia, China, Turkey, Iran and Syria lent their backing to Mr Maduro, the man handpicked by Hugo Chavez to succeed him upon his death in 2013. The Kremlin said Vladimir Putin had phoned his longtime ally and “expressed support to the legitimate government of Venezuela amid the acute political crisis that has been provoked from the outside”.
In response to Washington’s move against him, Mr Maduro ordered US diplomatic staff to leave Venezuela within 72 hours, saying he was breaking relations with the “imperialist United States government”.
But Mr Guaido, along with the US senator Marco Rubio, urged the US not to evacuate personnel, in light of its disavowal of Mr Maduro’s mandate.
On Thursday Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, warned “remnant elements of the Maduro regime” against using violence to repress what he called “the peaceful democratic transition”. He called for a meeting of the UN Security Council on Saturday to discuss the crisis.