Maduro be­gins sec­ond term in Venezuela amid re­gional re­jec­tion.

Latin Amer­ica, Europe boy­cott in­au­gu­ra­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY SCOTT SMITH

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“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.

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