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Venezuela's Maduro celebrates 2nd term as crisis deepens

AP  |  Caracas 

Venezuelan was sworn in to a second term Thursday amid international calls for him to step down and a devastating economic crisis, but with some long-time friends in attendance both from abroad and at home.

A dozen Latin American governments and in a coalition have rejected the legitimacy of Maduro's next term, and has sanctioned top officials in his government.

But Cuba's Miguel Diaz-Canel, Bolivian and President of a breakaway province of were among the foreign leaders who attended the ceremony at the country's

Maduro said 94 countries had sent representatives to the inauguration. 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

"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 Velazquez blamed opportunists who drive up the prices on scarce items making life difficult for families like hers.

Others, like Ramon Bermudez, have lost hope of escaping Maduro's rule and planned on hunkering down at home for the inauguration.

"All that's left to do is raise your hand to heaven and ask God to help us," said Bermudez, camped out on a sidewalk with hundreds of others waiting for gas. "There's nothing more."

Residents of awoke Thursday to unusually quiet streets but with a noticeably increased security presence and armed checkpoints. State TV showed Maduro arriving at the where he is took the oath of office from Hundreds of officials gathered inside the court's chambers cheered Maduro.

Maduro's second term extends Venezuela's socialist revolution amid widespread complaints that he has stripped of its last vestiges of democracy.

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

"Not before, not now, nor will there ever be a dictatorship in Venezuela," Maduro said in a Wednesday conference. Bermudez, 52, disagrees and points out the irony of living in a nation with the world's most reserves yet having to wait in line overnight recently to fill three canisters of to cook at home.

Oil-rich was once among Latin America's wealthiest nations. It produced 3.5 million barrels of crude daily when Chavez took power. Output now has plummeted to less than a third of that. Critics blame years of rampant corruption and mismanagement of the state-run firm

The economic collapse has left the nation of roughly 30 million in the throes of a historic crisis.

An estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled their nation's hyperinflation, and medical shortages over the last two years, according to the Those remaining live on a monthly minimum wage equal to less than USD 5 and falling daily.

Venezuela's splintered opposition movement has failed to counter the socialist party's dominance. has jailed or driven into exile its most popular leaders.

Anti-government politicians successfully rallied thousands to the streets across Venezuela for four months of demonstrations in 2017, when clashes with government forces left more than 120 protesters dead and thousands injured. Maduro remained squarely in power.

In May, he declared victory in that his political opponents and many foreign nations consider illegitimate because popular opponents were banned from running and the largest anti-government parties boycotted the race.

The opposition-led opened its session for the year this week, led by 35-year-old Juan Guaido, who vowed to battle against Maduro. Guaido said Maduro is "usurping the presidency." The has increased pressure on Maduro through financial sanctions, this week singling out powerful Venezuelan US banks are also banned from doing business with Venezuela, putting a financial strangle-hold on the cash-strapped country.

US said in a statement that the will keep up pressure in support of the Venezuelan people. "It is time for Venezuela to begin a transitional process that can restore the constitutional, democratic order by holding free and fair elections," Pompeo said.

It is time for Venezuela to begin a transitional process that can restore the constitutional, democratic order by holding free and fair elections that respect the will of the Venezuelan people.

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

First Published: Thu, January 10 2019. 22:20 IST