By Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump could recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's legitimate president as soon as Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Amid street protests in Venezuela, the Trump administration is preparing to announce its formal support for Guaido, head of the opposition-led Congress, the sources told Reuters, but is waiting to see whether he will declare himself interim president - something he has so far refrained from doing.
Venezuelan opposition sympathizers have been urging Guaido to assume the presidency since Nicolas Maduro was inaugurated to a second term earlier this month.
Guaido, a newcomer on the national scene who was elected to head Congress on Jan. 5, has said he is willing to replace Maduro if he has the support of the military, with the aim of then calling for free elections.
U.S. officials have stated that Maduro's claim on power is illegitimate and have openly declared support for Guaido.
The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that any formal recognition of Guaido would be complicated by questions of how to deal with Venezuela's U.S.-based diplomats.
Such a move by the Trump administration could also backfire if Maduro took action to prevent Guaido from being sworn in or used it as a pretext to detain him again.
(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jeffrey Benkoe)
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Updated Date: Jan 24, 2019 00:07:44 IST