Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro started a second term on Thursday, defying critics in the U.S. and Latin America who called him an illegitimate usurper of a nation where economic chaos has wrought a humanitarian crisis, Reuters informs.
The country’s pro-government Supreme Court, which has largely supplanted the opposition-run Congress, swore him in following a welcome with a symphony orchestra and cheering supporters waving miniature yellow, blue and red Venezuelan flags.
The ceremony contrasted with the harsh realities that face the former bus driver turned socialist leader, including hyperinflation, severe food and medicine shortages and an exodus of millions of citizens, Reuters asserts.
Before he had even completed his inaugural speech, the United States decried a “usurpation of power,” and Paraguay announced it was cutting diplomatic ties – highlighting the growing isolation that Maduro will face.
“A new world has risen up that refuses to be controlled by the imperial and hegemonic orders of a single nation or its satellite countries. That’s the rallying cry of our revolution to the peoples and governments of the world,” Maduro said following his swearing-in.
Supreme Court Chief Maikel Moreno dedicated nearly 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.
Opposition leaders have portrayed the inauguration as the moment at which Maduro will be internationally branded a dictator, following a widely boycotted 2018 election that many foreign governments described as a farce, Reuters adds.
Nonetheless, Maduro continues to enjoy consistent support from the armed forces, leaving him with few serious challenges at home despite the international outcry.
Maduro replaced Hugo Chavez after his death in 2013 and won a new six-year term in 2018 despite hyperinflation, chronic food shortages and a severe economic contraction. He frequently blames an “economic war” led by the United States and local opposition adversaries for the country’s woes.