Nicolás Maduro sworn in for second term as crisis deepens in Venezuela
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro gestures after receiving the presidential sash during the ceremonial swearing-in for his second presidential term, at the Supreme Court in Caracas, Venezuela - Photo: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/REUTERS

Nicolás Maduro sworn in for second term as crisis deepens in Venezuela

10/01/2019
15:24
Reuters
Caracas
Brian Ellsworth & Vivian Sequera
-A +A
Countries around the world condemned the vote, including the United States and Venezuela’s neighbors in Latin America, leaving Maduro backed by just a handful of stalwart allies from leftist governments

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro begins a second term in office on Thursday in defiance of international criticism that his reelection last year was illegitimate, further isolating the South American country where an economic crisis is fueling a humanitarian emergency.

Leaders from the ruling Socialist Party have disavowed criticism of Maduro’s inauguration, which will keep him at the helm of the OPEC oil exporter until 2025, calling for rallies of support and promoting him on social media with Twitter hashtags such as #YosoyPresidente (#Iampresident).

Opposition leaders, however, have portrayed Thursday’s inauguration as the moment at which Maduro will be internationally branded a dictator following a widely boycotted 2018 election that governments around the world described as a farce.

But continued support from the military, a chronically fractured opposition and a relentless crackdown on opposition critics means that Maduro appears to face few serious challenges at home, despite the international outcry.

“They’ve tried to turn a constitutional swearing-in ceremony into a world war,” Maduro said during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. “But whether there’s rain, thunder or lightning, we’re going to triumph.”

Maduro’s triumphalism echoes that of his predecessor, late socialist leader Hugo Chávez, who used abundant oil revenues to flood Venezuela with consumer goods while providing heavily subsidized food and medicine.

That contrasts sharply with the Venezuela of today.
 

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Inflation is fast approaching 2 million percent, leaving a monthly minimum wage worth less than a carton of eggs. Some three million people have emigrated since 2015—many on foot—to escape rising malnutrition and disease, according to the United Nations.

Maduro last year won reelection despite the economic chaos in large part because the opposition boycotted the vote, in which Socialist Party activists openly made payments to voters within a stone’s throw of polling stations.
 

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Countries around the world condemned the vote, including the United States and Venezuela’s neighbors in Latin America, leaving Maduro backed by just a handful of stalwart allies from leftist governments.

While few countries plan to shutter embassies or sever ties with the Maduro government, according to diplomatic sources, the vast majority did not send diplomats to the inauguration.

While opposition activists called for protests on Thursday, authorities responded by filling streets with police checkpoints and rifle-toting troops.

Fury in 2017 over Maduro’s aggressive sidelining of the opposition-run Congress led to a four-month wave of protests that killed over 100 but failed to shake him from power and left his adversaries frustrated.

While politically motivated demonstrations have faded, protests take place nearly every day to demand salary improvements, access to food and medicine, or improvements to spotty power and water services.
 

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