Venezuela's Maduro breaks off diplomatic ties with US

Venezuela's Maduro breaks off diplomatic ties with US

Maduro orders US diplomats to leave within 72 hours

Nicolas Maduro attends a rally in support of his government and to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the end of the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez. Reuters/Handout.

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro announced on Thursday he was breaking off diplomatic ties with the United States after Donald Trump recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as the South American country's "interim president."

"I've decided to break diplomatic and political relations with the imperialist government of the United States," said Maduro to thousands of supporters in Caracas.

"Get out! Leave Venezuela, here there's dignity, damn it," he said, giving the US delegation 72 hours to quit the country.

Guaido, the head of the opposition-controlled legislature, caused a sensation on Wednesday when he told a crowd of tens of thousands of opposition supporters that he was declaring himself "acting president."

Trump was the first foreign leader to react and threw his backing behind Guaido, describing the National Assembly as "the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people."

Speaking from a balcony at the presidential palace in Caracas, Maduro accused the US government of "attempting a coup d'etat." "The extremist policy of Donald Trump's government against Venezuela is a very serious irresponsibility, it's a very serious folly," said Maduro.

"Trying to impose a government by extra-constitutional means, we cannot accept that." He called on Venezuela's state agencies to "close ranks" in favor of "democracy" and repeated his call for loyalty from the armed forces.

"To my command, maximum loyalty, maximum unity, maximum discipline so that we win this battle together!" said Maduro. "Always loyal, never traitors!"