SAN SALVADOR – The El Salvador government ordered on Saturday the expulsion of Venezuelan diplomats serving under beleaguered incumbent Nicolas Maduro and recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president of the South American country.
President Nayib Bukele, the 37-year-old former mayor of the capital, San Salvador, said in a statement the government has given 48 hours to the entire diplomatic corps of the Maduro regime to leave.
The statement posted on his Twitter account said Bukele’s government “recognizes the legitimacy of the interim president, Juan Guaido” and supports the call for free elections to be held as per the Venezuelan constitution.
“(El Salvador) will support free voting, supervised by the international community and that guarantees the will of the people of Venezuela,” it said.
Bukele said his government would welcome a future diplomatic team sent by Guaido, who in January assumed a rival presidency in Venezuela, alleging that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate, and is seeking international actions to oust him.
The Salvadorian president’s decision was quickly hailed by the United States ambassador, Ronald Douglas Johnson.
“We applaud the government of President (Bukele) for ensuring that El Salvador is on the right side of history by recognizing (Juan Guaido) as the interim president of Venezuela,” Johnson wrote on his Twitter account.
Bukele’s statement said the move was consistent with El Salvador’s stand in the Aug. 28 meeting of the leaders of the Organization of American States (OAS) in which 21 countries voted to support the report of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Venezuela.
The UN report, the statement said, recognized that Maduro’s regime was involved in “systematic violations of human rights against Venezuelans.”
Bukele, a member of the right-wing Grand Alliance for National Unity, has previously made loud his opposition to Maduro and didn’t invite him for his inauguration into office in June this year.
“Dictators like Maduro in Venezuela will never have any legitimacy because they remain in power by force and do not respect the will of their people,” Bukele said days before his swearing-in.
With this move, Bukele has departed from the past when El Salvador governments would support Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.