Venezuela President Maduro sworn in for second term

Venezuela President Maduro sworn in for second term

Jamaica yesterday voted with 18 other members of the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS) to not recognise the legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro's second term as president of Venezuela.

"I swear to construct socialism of the 21st century", Mr Maduro said as he was inaugurated by the loyalist head of the Venezuelan supreme court.

Maduro, a 56-year-old former bus driver and Chavez's hand-picked successor, took the helm of government after narrowly winning election following Chavez's 2013 death.

Minutes after Maduro was sworn in, Paraguayan President Mario Abdo tweeted that he was cutting diplomatic ties with Venezuela and immediately withdrawing his country's diplomats from Caracas.

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

But Maduro continues to enjoy consistent support from the armed forces, leaving him with few serious challenges at home despite the worldwide outcry.

Maduro was sworn in for a second six-year term under a cloud of skyrocketing inflation, shortages of basic food and medicine and an exodus of Venezuelans to neighbouring countries, following an election that was boycotted by the opposition.

Supreme Court Chief Maikel Moreno dedicated almost 20 minutes to explaining why Maduro was not being sworn in by Congress, which the ruling Socialist Party has systematically ignored since the opposition took control of the body in 2016.

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The Venezuelan President added that he hoped to receive the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis in Venezuela, "where you have the affection and gratitude of a people that cultivates fraternity with the other peoples of the world".

The U.S. has also imposed sanctions which Maduro claims cost Venezuela $20 billion past year.

The opposition-led Congress opened its session for the year, led by 35-year-old Juan Guaido, who accused Maduro of "usurping the presidency".

"It's not the president's fault", said Frances Velazquez, a 43-year-old mother of two who survives on government-subsidized boxes of rice, flour and cooking oil. Velazquez blamed opportunists who drive up the prices of scarce items for making life hard for families like hers.

"All that's left to do is raise your hand to heaven and ask God to help us", said Bermudez, camped out on a Caracas sidewalk with hundreds of others waiting for gas.

But while the opposition has tried every means to dislodge Maduro, it remains fractured and protests left 200 people dead while a request for a referendum was rejected.

Venezuela "has alerted very clearly to the governments of the Cartel of Lima that, if they do not rectify their position (.) we will take the most crude and energetic measures that can be taken in diplomacy", Maduro, using a pejorative name for the group widely used by ruling Socialist Party leaders. The opposition says the government's control of foreign exchange, in place since 2003, has generated $300 billion in illicit gains.

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