Trump administration accepts Guaido ally as Venezuela envoy in U.S.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at the United Nations following a Security Council meeting about the situation in Venezuela in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 26, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration said on Sunday it had accepted a representative from Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s representative in the United States.

In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington last Friday accepted Guaido’s designation of Carlos Alfredo Vecchio, a member of the Venezuelan opposition, as the Venezuelan government’s charge d’affaires to the United States, and that Vecchio would have authority over diplomatic affairs in the United States on Venezuela’s behalf.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is confronting an unprecedented challenge to his authority after Guaido declared himself interim president, citing a fraudulent election.

Guaido has won wide international support, including from the United States. On Saturday, Venezuela’s top military diplomat in Washington, Colonel Jose Luis Silva, defected from Maduro’s government.

According to news reports, Vecchio left Venezuela in 2014 after the government jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Peter Cooney