The U.S. Government vowed that it will recognize Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn in for a second term, and pledged support to the country’s Opposition.
Having easily won the presidential election boycotted by the Opposition parties in May, the authoritarian Maduro has consolidated his power and assumed office for a second six-year term Thursday.
Major Opposition parties boycotted the election alleging that the electoral system was rigged in favor of the President.
The United States was the first country to react to Maduro’s inauguration. “The US will not recognize the Maduro dictatorship’s illegitimate inauguration,” national security advisor John Bolton said on Twitter Thursday.
“We will continue to increase pressure on the corrupt regime, support the democratic National Assembly, and call for democracy and freedom in Venezuela,” he tweeted.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the people of Venezuela not to co-operate with Maduro, but with the Opposition-controlled National Assembly.
“We urge those who support this regime, from everyday employees getting by on food subsidies to the Venezuelan security forces sworn to support the constitution, to stop enabling repression and corruption and to work with the National Assembly and its duly elected leader, Juan Guaido, in accordance with your constitution on a peaceful return to democracy,” Pompeo said in a statement.
In response to the Nicolas Maduro regime’s attempt to bypass US economic sanctions by launching a national cryptocurrency, Petro, the Trump administration imposed a fresh round of sanctions targeting Venezuelan government associates in March last year.
Washington alleges that President Maduro decimated the Venezuelan economy and spurred a humanitarian crisis.
Inflation in the socialist nation has spiralled, creating food and medicine shortages, and triggering an exodus of Venezuelans to neighbouring countries. The national currency bolivar lost its value.
It was in this context that the Maduro administration launched the Petro, aiming to ease the country’s economic crisis, and circumvent U.S.-led sanctions.
He introduced a currency reform in August, and allocated five billion barrels of oil to back Petro.
But the reforms have not helped Venezuela’s economy recover from the pressure of the sanctions, falling oil revenue and the plunging value of its fiat currency.
Late last month, Venezuela filed a complaint against U.S. sanctions before the World Trade Organization.
The Venezuelan National Assembly has declared Petro as illegitimate, but the newly formed Constitutional Assembly, which is loyal to Maduro, had stripped the former of its legislative powers.
EARLIER: Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro sworn in for new term
Caracas: Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a controversial new term Thursday as the Organization of American States voted to disavow his presidency and to call for new elections.
The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States, or OAS, agreed “to not recognize the legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro’s new term” at about the same time Maduro declared a “new beginning” of the so-called, two-decade Bolivarian Revolution.
The OAS resolution was approved “with 19 votes in favor, 6 against, 8 abstentions and one absent,” the organization said.
El Nacional newspaper in Venezuela reported protests within the country, as well as across Venezuelan missions in other parts of the world that have received the exodus of about 3 million Venezuelans fleeing political and economic instability in recent years.
Maduro assumed his new term as countries that are part of the Group of Lima, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru recently called for new elections and said they would move to deny Venezuelan officials’ entry into their nations.
Maduro kept a defiant tone during his inauguration speech, and reiterated that he had given 48 hours to the Group of Lima countries to back down. He has in the past accused those governments of interference, and of accepting pressures from the United States.
“Groups of the right pretend to give orders about what the government of Venezuela must do,” he said.
“Rest assured that Bolivarian Revolution will know how to face these threats, these aggressions,” Maduro told those present in the swearing-in ceremony.
The United States and the European Union have also not recognized Maduro’s election after a controversial process that saw voting dates moved twice and included a historically low turnout.
The Latin American presidents that attended the ceremony were Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel, Bolivian President Evo Morales, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, and El Salvador President Salvador Sanchez, Colombia’s El Tiempo reported.
Mexico and Uruguay were represented by Caracas-based diplomatic officials in charge of business affairs.
China was represented in the ceremony by Agriculture and Rural Affairs Minister Han Changfu while Ilyas Umakhanov, deputy speaker of the Federation Council, represented Russia, the Venezuelan government website said.
Venezuela’s Maduro is not just experiencing diplomatic problems, but also faces economic and domestic difficulties that have led to greater resistance in his nation.
Last year, Venezuela became Latin America’s most violent country, with more than 23,000 violent deaths — of which 7,523 occurred as citizens resisted authority, according to a tally of a non-government organization.
A chaotic economic situation has created shortages of food and medicine and has contributed to the exodus of 3 million Venezuelans in recent years, according to the United Nations. The country had a population of 32 million people in 2017.
The country’s oil production, traditionally its main source of revenue, has declined to historic lows.
Image: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro greets a group of children upon his arrival at his inauguration ceremony in Caracas Thursday January 10