U.S. vows to pressure Venezuela's 'illegitimate' Maduro

Erika Holt
January 13, 2019

Mr Maduro claims that United States sanctions also cost the country $20bn a year ago.

Canada joined the United States and 17 Latin American governments in rejecting the legitimacy of the new Maduro government. He vowed to continue the legacy of the late President Hugo Chavez and accused the United States of trying to ignite unrest through its increasing economic sanctions.

"Venezuela is the center of a world war led by the North American imperialists and its allies", he declared in a speech after his swearing-in.

"Venezuela is the center of a world war with USA imperialism and its satellite governments", the socialist leader retorted in a rambling speech which lasted around two hours.

Washington has sanctioned a number of individuals in Venezuela as it cranks up the pressure on the Maduro government it blames for the country's economic meltdown.

In a special session in Washington, the OAS similarly backed a resolution declaring Maduro's government illegitimate.

The resolution was passed in Washington minutes after Maduro was sworn in for a second term in Caracas, Venezuela, and included a demand for new presidential elections - with all necessary guarantees of a free, fair, transparent, and legitimate process - to be held at an early date, attended by global observers.

Paraguay went a step further, cutting diplomatic ties. One member country was absent.

"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", U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

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"It is time for Venezuelan leaders to make a choice".

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.

"According to a U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity to freely discuss sensitive issues, Maduro's defense minister, Vladimir Padrino López, told the president last month to resign or accept his resignation, threat that has not yet executed, "the newspaper reported in an article where it indicates that the Venezuelan crisis is sharpened from one day to another".

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

The economic collapse has thrown the nation of 30 million people into turmoil.

But the country is marred by skyrocketing inflation, which rose 1.7m percent in 2018.

He's not alone. The United Nations says 2.3 million people have left the country since 2015 in one of the biggest ever migration movements in the region. Those remaining live on a monthly minimum wage equal to less than $5 and falling daily.

Maduro has successfully maintained power, opposed by a fractured opposition.

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