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Venezuela's Maduro to celebrate 2nd term as crisis deepens

AP  |  Caracas 

Venezuelan will be 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 and Bolivian were coming to to show their support.

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-subsidised 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."

Maduro's second term will extend 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.

David Smile, expert on Venezuela, said that this isn't likely to create change. Ultimately, isn't worried about its international reputation, Smilde said.

"He still has control of the institutions," Smilde said of Maduro. "He has the guns. He has the money."

Bermudez had waited to refill his in a line of roughly 500 people that wrapped around a children's playground in El Valle, a poor corner of Venezuela's capital.

One by one, they came down from hillside neighbourhoods and took their place in line, waiting for a truck to deliver

Then they'd carry it home.

Bermudez lives with his wife and two children but said many parents have bid farewell to their children rather than endure the crisis.

"Sadly, I have many neighbours who have cried and have seen their children depart for other countries in search of a future," he said.

"They're looking to improve their lives, having lost hope.

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

First Published: Thu, January 10 2019. 11:35 IST