Venezuelan President Maduro sworn in for second term amid international boycott




 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in to a second term on Thursday in a ceremony shunned by most of the international community amid a devastating economic crisis.

A dozen Latin American governments and Canada in a coalition have rejected the legitimacy of Maduro's next term, and Washington has sanctioned top officials in his government.

Paraguay's president, Mario Abdo Benitez, said on Thursday that he was severing diplomatic relations with Venezuela and closing the country's embassy.

But Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Bolivian President Evo Morales and President Anatoli Bibilov of a breakaway province of Georgia were among the foreign leaders who attended the ceremony at the country's Supreme Court.

Maduro said 94 countries had sent representatives to the inauguration.

Residents of Caracas awoke Thursday to unusually quiet streets but with a noticeably increased security presence and armed checkpoints.

State TV showed Maduro arriving at the Supreme Court where he is took the oath of office from Chief Justice Maikel Moreno. Hundreds of officials gathered inside the court's chambers cheered Maduro.

Maduro's second term extends Venezuela's socialist revolution amid widespread complaints that he has stripped Venezuela of its last vestiges of democracy.

Maduro denies that he's a dictator and often blames President Donald Trump of leading an economic war against Venezuela that's destroying the country.

"Not before, not now, nor will there ever be a dictatorship in Venezuela," Maduro said in a Wednesday news conference.

Oil-rich Venezuela was once among Latin America's wealthiest nations. It produced 3.5 million barrels of crude daily when Chavez took power. Output now has plummeted to less than a third of that. 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.

Venezuela's splintered opposition movement has failed to counter the socialist party's dominance. Maduro's government has jailed or driven into exile its most popular leaders.

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. Maduro remained squarely in power.

In May, he declared victory in 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.

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