US President Donald Trump on Wednesday recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's interim president.
Guaido swore himself in as president on Wednesday.
Trump described hard-left President Nicolas Maduro as "illegitimate" and said the National Assembly, headed by Guaido, is "the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people."
Trump's support for Guaido came shortly after the opposition leader declared himself "acting president" during a mass demonstration against Maduro.
Trump noted that the National Assembly had declared Maduro "illegitimate, and the office of the presidency therefore vacant."
"The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law," he said.
Trump urged other countries to follow his lead and promised to "use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy."
Apparently referring to tensions around the mass demonstrations against the Maduro government, Trump warned: "We continue to hold the illegitimate Maduro regime directly responsible for any threats it may pose to the safety of the Venezuelan people."