‘Dic­ta­tor’ Maduro’s sec­ond term greeted by iso­la­tion

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD -

CARA­CAS: Ni­co­las Maduro cel­e­brated the start to a sec­ond term as Venezuela’s pres­i­dent yes­ter­day, but his world got smaller as coun­tries seized upon the in­au­gu­ra­tion to cut back diplo­matic ties, re­ject his le­git­i­macy and la­bel him a dic­ta­tor.

Seven­teen Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries, the US and Canada de­nounced Mr Maduro’s so­cial­ist gov­ern­ment as il­le­git­i­mate.

Mr Maduro re­jected the ac­cu­sa­tion, vow­ing to con­tinue the legacy of the late pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez and ac­cused the US of try­ing to ig­nite un­rest through its in­creas­ing eco­nomic sanc­tions.

“Venezuela is the cen­tre of a world war led by the North Amer­i­can im­pe­ri­al­ists and its al­lies,” he said af­ter his swear­ing-in. “They have tried to con­vert a nor­mal in­au­gu­ra­tion into a world war.”

Mr Maduro, a 56-year-old for­mer bus driver, took the helm af­ter nar­rowly win­ning elec­tion fol­low­ing Chavez’s 2013 death.

He de­nies be­ing a dic­ta­tor and ac­cuses Don­ald Trump of lead­ing an eco­nomic war against Venezuela that is de­stroy­ing the coun­try.

In May, Mr 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.

Yes­ter­day, the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Amer­i­can States voted not to recog­nise the le­git­i­macy of Mr Maduro’s sec­ond term, adopt­ing a res­o­lu­tion pre­sented by Colom­bia, Ar­gentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, the US, Paraguay and Peru.

Venezuela’s am­bas­sador to the OAS, Sa­muel Mon­cada, de­nounced the move as “a hos­tile act ... against the will of our na­tion”.

Paraguay went a step fur­ther, sev­er­ing diplo­matic ties. Peru also called home its top diplo­mat from Cara­cas in protest and banned 100 mem­bers of the Maduro ad­min­is­tra­tion from en­ter­ing the coun­try. Ar­gentina sus­pended Venezue­lan diplo­matic and of­fi­cial pass­ports for Maduro of­fi­cials.

US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said Wash­ing­ton would keep up pres­sure in sup­port of the Venezue­lan peo­ple. “Now is the time to con­vince the Maduro dic­ta­tor­ship that the mo­ment has ar­rived for democ­racy to re­turn to Venezuela,” he said.

Ar­gen­tine Pres­i­dent Mauri­cio Macri also de­nounced Mr Maduro, say­ing he lacks the au­then­tic­ity won through hon­est elec­tions de­spite the in­au­gu­ra­tion cer­e­mony.

“Ni­co­las Maduro to­day is mak­ing a mock­ery of democ­racy,” Mr Macri tweeted.

“Venezue­lans know it, the world knows it. Venezuela lives un­der a dic­ta­tor­ship.”

Most coun­tries from Europe and Latin Amer­ica didn’t send rep­re­sen­ta­tives to the swearingin. Pres­i­dents Miguel Diaz-Canel of Cuba, Evo Mo­rales of Bo­livia and Ana­toli Bi­bilov of a break­away prov­ince of Ge­or­gia were among the few for­eign lead­ers who at­tended the cer­e­mony at the coun­try’s Supreme Court.


The na­tional guard per­forms at Ni­co­las Maduro’s in­au­gu­ra­tion in Cara­cas yes­ter­day

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