Maduro sworn in for second term as Venezuela president

12 January, 2019, 22:08 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro takes the oath of office in Caracas Venezuela on Thursday. Maduro starts his second term amid international denunciation of his victory and a devastating economic crisis

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro began a new term Thursday that will keep him in power until 2025, with the economy in ruins and his regime more isolated than ever as neighbouring presidents shunned his inauguration after declaring his re-election illegitimate.

The country's pro-government Supreme Court, which has largely supplanted the opposition-run Congress, swore him in following a welcome with a symphony orchestra and cheering supporters waving miniature Venezuelan flags.

The ceremony contrasted with the harsh realities that face the former bus driver turned socialist leader, including hyperinflation, severe food and medicine shortages and an exodus of millions of citizens. Meanwhile, Paraguay cut off diplomatic ties with Venezuela.

"A new world has risen up that refuses to be controlled by the imperial and hegemonic orders of a single nation or its satellite countries", Maduro said following his swearing-in.

In May, Maduro declared victory following an election that his political opponents and many foreign nations consider illegitimate because popular opponents were banned from running and the largest anti-government parties boycotted the race.

Venezuela "has alerted very clearly to the governments of the Cartel of Lima that, if they do not rectify their position (.) we will take the most crude and energetic measures that can be taken in diplomacy", Maduro, using a pejorative name for the group widely used by ruling Socialist Party leaders. "Now is the time to convince the Maduro dictatorship that the moment has arrived for democracy to return to Venezuela".

But Maduro continues to enjoy consistent support from the armed forces, leaving him with few serious challenges at home despite the global outcry.

Thousands of spectators gathered for the ceremony in Caracas.

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A US government source told Reuters the government believes reports that Padrino threatened to resign if Maduro did not depart are credible.

Many prominent opposition figures are either in jail or exile and various factions continue to squabble over power while the National Assembly, the one institution they control, has been left impotent after Maduro created the rival Constituent Assembly and filled the Supreme Court with loyalists who annul every decision made by parliament.

"Sometimes its hard to find food because businesses hide it and then say its the president's fault, even though we all know that's a lie", said Graciela Laya, 43, a homemaker, at a rally near the Supreme Court.

Mr Maduro was first elected in 2013, succeeding Hugo Chavez who died of cancer after governing for 14 years. He blames an "economic war" led by the United States and local opposition adversaries for the country's woes.

In a letter dated December 10, 2018, Maduro requested Harris' presence at his inauguration, saying, "Knowing his special respect for Venezuela, his singular appreciation for the good relationship between our countries and his inestimable solidarity with the Venezuelan people, it will be a great honor and an enormous privilege to have his presence at the State Ceremony, as well as in the rest of the official activities that will take place in the city of Caracas, on January 10, 2019".

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. would keep up pressure on the Maduro government: "It is time for Venezuelan leaders to make a choice", Pompeo said.

Most other countries plan to maintain their embassies and diplomatic relations with Venezuela, according to sources consulted by Reuters.

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