Venezuela’s socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro was sworn in for another six-year term on Thursday, over eight months after he rigged a second successive presidential election in his favor.
Thousands of socialist supporters gathered for the ceremony in Caracas, although the event was largely boycotted by foreign leaders who have said they do not recognize Maduro victory.
Foreign leaders included Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, and Cuba’s Miguel Díaz-Canel, as well as diplomats from other authoritarian regimes such as Russia, China, and Iran. In his inaugural address, Maduro said that his victory marked “step of peace for our country.”
“We are a real democracy, here I am, to democratically take the reins of our country to a higher destination, we have complied with the rules and will continue to do so,” Maduro said. “We can not fail and we will not fail, I swear by my life and by my country.”
Maduro also took the opportunity to complain how Latin America, once celebrated by leftists around the world as a hotbed of socialism, had been “contaminated” by the election of right-wing leaders, including Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, who he labeled a “fascist.”
Despite his typically grandiose rhetoric, the inauguration has created more problems for the Maduro regime than solutions, as scores of countries came together to denounce his attacks on democracy and illegitimate rule. Following the ceremony on Thursday, Paraguayan leader Mario Abdo Benítez announced that his country would cut ties with Caracas and immediately withdraw all diplomats from the country.
“Venezuela is at the center of a world war led by the United States imperialism and its satellite countries,” Maduro declared. “They have tried to convert a normal inauguration into a world war. There are problems in Venezuela, like in any other country. But we, Venezuelans, have to sort it out, without foreign intervention.”
Last week, members of the Lima Group, which includes over a dozen regional nations seeking an end to Maduro’s rule as well as the economic and humanitarian crisis afflicting the country, released a statement urging him to cede power to the opposition-controlled congress until free and fair elections are held.
Although Maduro has obviously refused to do this, many countries will no longer deem Maduro as Venezuela’s president, and will instead recognize the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, 35-year-old Juan Guaidó, as the country’s interim leader.