President Donald Trump made his first known phone call to Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó on Wednesday and reinforced his support for the opposition against dictatorial President Nicolás Maduro.
Trump recognized opposition leader Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela last week after Maduro won re-election in a contentious nationwide vote. The U.S. government cited the election results as illegitimate because the Maduro regime has been known to jail and torture political opposition and protesters.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said during a press briefing Monday that Vice President Mike Pence had spoken with Guaidó on the phone on several occasions to offer support, but did not reveal if the president had spoken to him.
Sanders released a statement Wednesday indicating that the president had a phone call with Guaidó — potentially for the first time.
According to a readout of the call, Trump reiterated his support for the Venezuelan opposition and congratulated him on his assumption of the country’s presidency.
Guaidó reportedly thanked Trump for “the United States’ commitment to freedom and prosperity in Venezuela and the region” and spoke about the large anti-Maduro protests sweeping Venezuela.
Venezuela’s National Assembly head and self-proclaimed “acting president” Juan Guaido speaks to the press after attending a mass in honour to the fallen in the fight for freedom, political prisoners and the exiled, at the San Jose church in Caracas on January 27, 2019 (Photo by LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images)
The two world leaders promised to communicate regularly about the situation in Venezuela. The Trump administration announced Monday that they were placing sanctions on the Venezuelan oil industry in an attempt to force Maduro out of power.
The administration did not say if they were considering military action in the region, instead asserting that “all options are on the table.”