Maduro gives US diplomats 72 hours to leave Venezuela

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has cut off diplomatic relations with the United States, the biggest importer of Venezuelan oil, and said American diplomats had 72 hours to leave the country.

"Before the people and nations of the world, and as constitutional president. .... I've decided to break diplomatic and political relations with the imperialist U.S. government," Maduro told a crowd of red-shirted supporters gathered at the presidential palace.

"Don't trust the gringos. They don't have friends or loyalties. They only have interests, guts and the ambition to take Venezuela's oil, gas and gold."

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president in a defiant speech Wednesday before masses of anti-government demonstrators who took to the streets to demand President Nicolas Maduro's removal — a bold move that was immediately recognized by the Trump administration and a growing number of other Western nations.

President Donald Trump called on Maduro to resign and said the U.S. would use the "full weight" of its economic and diplomatic power to push for the restoration of Venezuela's democracy. Canada as well as Brazil, Colombia and several other Latin American nations followed suit in throwing their support behind Guaido.

"The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law," Trump said in a statement.

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