Increasingly Isolated Venezuelan President Begins New Term

Venezuela President Maduro sworn in for second term

Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU on the new mandate of President Maduro

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro started a second, six-year term Thursday amid worldwide cries urging him to step down and return democratic rule to a country suffering a historic economic implosion.

The vast majority of the opposition boycotted last year's vote on the grounds that it was rigged in favor of Maduro, noting a host of irregularities, including Socialist Party activists offering monetary payments to voters. "We will not allow them to act without effect or enjoy their ill-gotten gains in the United States - and urge other countries to act likewise", the statement said.

After the inauguration ceremony, Maduro said the ceremony "was a peace step for the country".

That support was on display on Thursday afternoon during a ceremony at Venezuela's military academy in Caracas.

The ceremony was boycotted by the European Union, United States and Venezuela´s South American neighbors.

"There are problems in Venezuela, like in any other country".

Increasingly shunned by its neighbours - the OAS plans to hold an extraordinary session Thursday to discuss Venezuela - Caracas has reached out ever more to its few remaining worldwide allies: Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and North Korea.

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Maduro, 56, was sworn in by Supreme Court president Maikel Moreno, amid cheers and applause by a crowd of hundreds attending the inauguration in Caracas. Diplomatic ties were formalized between Venezuela and St. Kitts and Nevis on October 31, 1983.

A day earlier, Maduro warned that his country was facing a coup attempt ordered by the Donald Trump administration and the so-called Lima Group, the anti-Venezuelan organization founded in 2016 and includes 14 American states who are led by right-wing governments.

And while Maduro's popularity has plunged amid scarcities, hyperinflation and rising authoritarianism that have sparked a mass emigration, supporters who receive government subsidies in shantytowns continue to back the man who took over for the late Hugo Chavez.

The country's National Electoral Council (CNE) put voter turnout at 46 per cent, but political opposition groups allege it was even lower.

David Smilde, Tulane University expert on Venezuela, said that this isn't likely to create change.

Why has his government been criticised?

Since taking office he has faced criticism at home and overseas over alleged human rights abuses and his handling of the economy, which is in a parlous state.

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"According to a USA intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity to freely discuss sensitive issues, Maduro's defense minister, Vladimir Padrino López, told the president last month to resign or accept his resignation, threat that has not yet executed, "the newspaper reported in an article where it indicates that the Venezuelan crisis is sharpened from one day to another".

But an overreliance on oil - it accounts for about 95 per cent of its export earnings - left the country vulnerable when prices dropped in 2014.

But the country is marred by skyrocketing inflation, which rose 1.7m percent in 2018.

Maduro claims sanctions cost the country $20 billion in 2018.

An estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled, according to the United Nations.

Anti-government riots in 2014 left 43 dead, and at least 125 people died in months of protests in 2017.

Maduro told reporters a year ago that the US was plotting to kill him and topple his government, but did not produce any evidence.

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