Who Is Juan Guaidó? Trump Officially Recognizes Venezuela's National Assembly Leader As 'Interim President'

President Donald Trump formally recognized Juan Guaidó, the head of Venezuela's National Assembly, as the South American country's "interim president" in full rejection of Nicolás Maduro's government.

"Today, I am officially recognizing the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as the interim president of Venezuela," Trump said on Wednesday. The decision was expected, as top administration officials had already voiced support for Guaidó and the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

"The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law," the president said. "I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy," he added, encouraging other nations to follow the United States' lead.

The citizens of Venezuela have suffered for too long at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime. Today, I have officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela. https://t.co/WItWPiG9jK

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2019

Guaidó, 35, has led the political opposition against Maduro in the National Assembly, the country's congress, with the body officially declaring the president a "usurper" last week and calling for a transitional process to restore democracy. Maduro was inaugurated for a second presidential term earlier this month following elections last year that were largely condemned by the international community.

Since taking power in 2013, Maduro has overseen the largest economic crisis in Venezuela's modern history, with inflation surpassing 1 million percent. Because of severe financial problems as well as soaring crime and rampant corruption, millions of Venezuelans have fled their country, primarily to nearby nations such as Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil.

Trump's announcement came shortly after Guaidó, spurred by tens of thousands of Venezuelan demonstrators, declared himself his country's interim president.

"I swear to formally assume the powers of the national executive as president in charge of Venezuela," he said to a cheering crowd in Caracas on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. "We know that this will have consequences," the young leader added, but he insisted the move was necessary to restore democracy after the "dictatorship" of Maduro.

The decision was presented as being in line with the Venezuelan constitution, which calls for the president of the National Assembly to take over the duties of head of state in the absence of a legitimate president. The Organization of American States has voted not to recognize Maduro as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, approving a resolution put forward by the U.S., Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Peru, and several other nations are expected to join Trump in supporting Guaidó's legitimacy.

Canada, Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay all have already announced their recognition of Guaidó as Venezuela's acting head of state.

Venezuela's National Assembly president, Juan Guaidó, waves to the crowd during a mass opposition rally against President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas on January 23. At the event, Guaidó declared himself the country's "interim president." FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images

Until now, Maduro's government, which has the support of the Supreme Court, has dismissed the political opposition as well as its international backers. After Vice President Mike Pence voiced the White House's support for Guaidó and the National Assembly in a video message on Tuesday, Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez responded by saying, "Yankee, go home." Previously, Maduro has accused the U.S. of trying to kill him.

Analysts and supporters have raised concerns about Guaidó's safety, but Trump warned the Maduro government against targeting the leader.

"We continue to hold the illegitimate Maduro regime directly responsible for any threats it may pose to the safety of the Venezuelan people," he said, later adding that "all options are on the table" if the opposition leader is harmed.

Guaidó, an engineer, did postgraduate studies at George Washington University in the U.S. He became active in politics when he was young, joining student-led movements against the government. He was elected to the National Assembly as an alternate federal deputy in 2010 and to a full seat there in 2015.