Maduro begins second term in Venezuela amid regional rejection.
Latin America, Europe boycott inauguration
CARACAS, VENEZUELA | Venezuelan socialist President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in to a second term Thursday amid international calls for him to step down and a devastating economic crisis.
Seventeen Latin American governments, the United States and Canada rejected the legitimacy of Mr. Maduro’s new term in a measure adopted Thursday. Most countries from Europe and Latin American didn’t send representatives to the swearing-in.
But Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Bolivian President Evo Morales and President Anatoly Bibilov of a breakaway province of Georgia were among the foreign leaders who attended the ceremony at the country’s Supreme Court.
In a speech after his swearing-in, Mr. Maduro claimed 94 countries had sent representatives to his inauguration. He vowed to continue the legacy of the late President Hugo Chavez, his populist political mentor, and accused the Trump administration of trying to ignite unrest through its increasing economic sanctions.
“Venezuela is the center of a world war led by the North American imperialists and its allies,” said Mr. Maduro, a former bus driver. “They have tried to convert a normal inauguration into a world war.”
Mr. Maduro’s second term extends Venezuela’s leftist revolution amid widespread complaints that he has stripped the country of its last vestiges of democracy.
Mr. Maduro, 56, denies that he’s a dictator and often blames President Trump for leading an economic war against Venezuela that’s destroying the country.
The Washington-based Organization of American States voted not to recognize Mr. Maduro’s legitimacy, adopting a resolution Thursday presented by Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, the United States, Paraguay and Peru. The move was denounced by Venezuela Ambassador to the OAS Samuel Moncada as “a hostile act ... against the will of our nation.”
Paraguay went a step further, cutting diplomatic ties. President Mario Abdo Benitez said his country “in the exercise of its constitutional powers and national sovereignty, adopts the decision to break diplomatic relations with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the United States will keep up pressure in support of the Venezuelan people.
“It is time for Venezuelan leaders to make a choice,” Mr. Pompeo said, urging Maduro supporters to be on the right side of history. “Now is the time to convince the Maduro dictatorship that the moment has arrived for democracy to return to Venezuela.”
Argentina’s center-right President Mauricio Macri also denounced Mr. Maduro, saying he lacks the legitimacy won through honest elections despite Thursday’s elaborate inauguration ceremony and other electoral “tricks.”
Oil-rich Venezuela was once among Latin America’s wealthiest nations, producing 3.5 million barrels of crude daily when Chavez took power. Output now has plummeted by more than two thirds since then, and critics blame years of rampant corruption and mismanagement of the state-run oil firm, PDVSA.
The economic collapse has left the nation of roughly 30 million in the throes of a historic crisis.
An estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled their nation’s hyperinflation, food and medical shortages over the last two years, according to the United Nations. Those remaining live on a monthly minimum wage equal to less than $5 and falling daily.
Despite winning parliamentary elections in 2015, Venezuela’s splintered opposition movement has failed to counter the socialist party’s dominance of the levers of power. Mr. Maduro’s government has jailed or driven into exile its most popular leaders.
In May, Mr. Maduro declared victory in a presidential 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.
The opposition-led Congress opened its session for the year this week, led by 35-year-old Juan Guaido, who vowed to battle against Mr. Maduro.
“Today there is no head of state. Today there is no commander-in-chief,” said Mr. Guaido, adding that Mr. Maduro kidnapped Venezuela for his own benefit.
“Venezuela is the center of a world war led by the North American imperialists and its allies,” President Nicolas Maduro said. He was sworn in to a second term Thursday.