Published: Sun, January 13, 2019
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro to be inaugurated for second term

Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro to be inaugurated for second term

The United States on Thursday refused to recognise Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's legitimacy as he started a controversial new term and urged rank-and-file government employees to empower the opposition.

The 56-year-old socialist leader was sworn in by Supreme Court president Maikel Moreno as an audience of hundreds, including a handful of South American leftist leaders and Venezuela's military top brass, cheered and applauded.

Last 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 (See related story on Pages 6 & 7).

Before he had even completed his inaugural speech, the United States decried a "usurpation of power", and Paraguay announced it was cutting diplomatic ties - highlighting the growing isolation that Maduro will face.

President Maduro also noted that Prime Minister Harris' presence would provide "an unparalleled opportunity to continue strengthening the relations between our countries".

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"There are problems in Venezuela, like in any other country".

"Those who refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Venezuela's institutions will be given a reciprocal and opportune response, we'll act very firmly", said Maduro, who has the support of the military and the controversial Constitutional Assembly that he created past year to bypass parliament.

A press statement released by the US State Department further condemned Maduro's illegitimate usurpation of power on Thursday, following the allegedly unfree and unfair elections he imposed on the Venezuelan people on May 20, 2018.

In a statement issued on behalf of the European Union, the bloc's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the result of May's elections "lacked any credibility" and condemned Maduro for ignoring global calls for new polls.

Many prominent opposition figures are either in jail or exile.

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"It's not the president's fault", said Frances Velazquez, a 43-year-old mother of two who survives on government-subsidized boxes of rice, flour and cooking oil.

The Venezuelan President added that he hoped to receive the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis in Venezuela, "where you have the affection and gratitude of a people that cultivates fraternity with the other peoples of the world". Velazquez blamed opportunists who drive up the prices on scarce items making life hard for families like hers.

An estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled, according to the United Nations.

Anti-government politicians successfully rallied thousands to the streets across Venezuela for four months of demonstrations in 2017, when clashes with government forces left more than 120 protesters dead and thousands injured.

"The United States remains steadfast in its support of the Venezuelan people and will continue to use the full weight of US economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy", Pompeo said.

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"He still has control of the institutions", Smilde said.

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