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Maduro dismisses legitimacy questions as second term looms

AFP  |  Caracas 

Venezuelan Nicolas will begin his second mandate on Thursday plagued by accusations of illegitimacy and increasing international isolation in a country crippled by an economic crisis.

The 56-year-old leader will be sworn in by the rather than the sidelined -- and opposition controlled -- parliament having been reelected in May in a poll boycotted by the majority of the opposition and dismissed as a fraud by the United States, and

The EU even reiterated on Tuesday its call for new and "free" elections.

"We believe the (2018) was neither free nor credible. The EU demands a new election that is free and fair," said EU

With the exception of Mexico, the Lima Group -- made up of 14 mostly Latin American countries -- has urged to renounce his second term and deliver power to parliament, a demand blasted as incitement to stage a coup d'etat.

Maduro's second term coincides with the assumption of power in of one of his greatest detractors, ultra-conservative who, backed by US Donald Trump, is looking to form a regional coalition against the "dictatorship."

Increasingly shunned by its neighbours -- the OAS plans to hold an extraordinary session Thursday to discuss -- has reached out ever more to its few remaining international allies: Russia, China, Iran, and

"Those who refuse to recognise the legitimacy of Venezuela's institutions will be given a reciprocal and opportune response, we'll act very firmly," said Maduro, who has the support of the military and the controversial that he created last year to bypass parliament.

The former says he feels stronger and more legitimate than ever, but many blame him for Venezuela's economic woes that have left much of the population living in poverty with shortages of basic necessities such as and medicine.

The predicts that Venezuela's economy will shrink by five per cent next year with inflation -- which reached 1.35 million percent in 2018 -- hitting a staggering 10 million per cent.

"Some think we're facing the worst of it... but there will be much more critical levels to come," warned Asdrubal Oliveros, group

The country has been hard hit by a dramatic drop in -- upon which it is almost entirely dependent -- in the last decade from 3.2 million barrels a day to just 1.13 million.

"won't change with as president, we can't find medication, people are hungry," 23-year-old told AFP before emigrating to last week.

He's not alone. The says 2.3 million people have left the country since 2015 in one of the biggest ever migration movements in the region.

It predicts that number will reach 5.3 million by the end of this year. Maduro's answer has been to plead with his allies to invest in the country's crude, gold, diamond and coltan resources.

He also insists that production will increase by one million barrels a day in 2019.

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.

Maduro, meanwhile, retains control of both the military and political institutions.

Many prominent opposition figures are either in jail or exile and various factions within continue to squabble over power while the National Assembly, the one institution it controls, has been left impotent after Maduro created the rival and filled the with loyalists who annul every decision made by parliament.

It hasn't given up, though, and on Saturday declared itself the only legitimate institution.

The announced it would instill a "transitional government" ahead of new elections, although didn't divulge how it would hold those.

"Nothing will come out of parliament that could have the faintest impact on the policies, practices or members of government (because) they have neither power nor authority," said Peter Hakim, from the Inter-American Dialogue, a US-based think tank.

"No authoritarian and repressive government falls just because its opponents -- weak and disorganised -- demand it."

What's more, Maduro's supporters are organised, and armed. On Monday, a group of armed balaclava-clad loyalists vowed to defend the with blood and fire.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, January 09 2019. 10:00 IST