What If Nancy Pelosi Declared Herself President During the Government Shutdown, Russia's Prime Minister Asks

On Thursday, Russia's Prime Minister and former President Dmitry Medvedev called out the United States for recognizing Venezuela's opposition leader as the country's new interim President, arguing that Americans would never allow a member of the U.S. opposition to declare themselves the leader of the country.

"How would the American people respond, for example, to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives declaring herself the new president against the backdrop of the government shutdown? But when it happens somewhere else, this is viewed as common practice #Venezuela," Medvedev tweeted as the U.S. government shutdown entered its 34th day.

Wednesday was a particularly dramatic day for Venezuela, which for several years has been experiencing an extreme economic crisis and hyperinflation that have led to severe shortages in food and medicine. The leader of the country's legislature, Juan Guaido, declared himself the interim President of Venezuela and said that he would assume executive powers starting immediately. President Donald Trump and leaders across Europe almost immediately expressed their support for Guaido's rule.

The country's strongman President Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn in for a second term in office just two weeks ago, condemned the announcement as part of a U.S. coup attempt, and accused Trump personally of wanting to overthrow his government. Countries like Russia, Cuba, Turkey, and China have all thrown their support behind Maduro.

Venezuela's military also backed Maduro on Thursday, issuing a sweeping statement that blamed the U.S. for the current political standoff.

"For a long time now a vulgar coup has been plotted against the legitimate government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela by elements of the extreme right with the unabashed approval of imperialist agents," the military said in a statement.

"This criminal plan, which flagrantly threatens the liberty, sovereignty, and independence of the nation, reached the highest levels of danger yesterday, and tried to instate a de facto parallel government that lacks legitimacy and popular support, with the dark aim of generating chaos and anarchy in our society," the statement continued.

But observers in the West and Venezuelan opposition leaders view Maduro's rule as illegitimate. They point out that much of the country's opposition has been jailed or forced to flee the country due to persecution, and they say that the recent elections were not free and fair.

The opposition in Venezuela's legislature has refused to recognize Maduro's electoral win, and the country's constitution stipulates that the head of the National Assembly will take over if an election is disputed.

Maduro has ordered all U.S. diplomats out of the country, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has refused to honor the request over its claim that Maduro's government is illegitimate.