Maduro started a second term on Jan. 10 following a widely-boycotted election last year that many foreign governments described as a sham. Venezuela’s constitution says if the presidency is determined to be vacant, new elections should be called in 30 days and that the head of congress should assume the presidency in the meantime.
However, the pro-government Supreme Court has ruled that all actions taken by congress are null and void and Maduro’s government has previously accused Guaido of staging a coup and threatened him with jail.
Guaido’s political mentor, Leopoldo Lopez, was arrested in 2014, one of dozens of opposition activists and leaders the government jailed for seeking to overthrow Maduro through violent street demonstrations in 2014 and 2017.
“I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy,” Trump said in his statement.
The Trump administration could impose sanctions on Venezuelan oil as soon as this week, according to sources. The South American country has the largest crude reserves in the world and is a major supplier to U.S. refiners, though output is hovering near 70-year lows and reaction in the oil markets was muted on Wednesday.
Maduro has presided over Venezuela’s spiral into its worst-ever economic crisis, with hyperinflation forecast to reach 10 million percent this year. Some 3 million Venezuelans have fled abroad over the past five years to escape widespread shortages of food and medicine.
On bond markets, Venezuela’s benchmark 2027 bond was trading above 31 cents on the dollar for the first time since May 2018, up from 22.25 cents just two weeks ago.
—CNBC’s Amanda Macias and Reuters contributed to this report