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Venezuela: Maduro starts second mandate as president amid escalating isolation

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Venezuela: Maduro starts second mandate as president amid escalating isolation
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REUTERS
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Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro on Thursday started a second term in office amid growing international isolation.

The controversial Venezuelan president has ignored international criticism that his reelection last year was illegitimate, with many saying the election was a sham.

The United States, the European Union, and the Lima Group, with the exception of Mexico, have refused to recognise Maduro's new term in office.

Washington issued new sanctions targeting individuals and private companies in Venezuela on Tuesday.

The European Union said that none of the EU member states would attend Maduro’s investiture for a second mandate as president of Venezuela since last year’s elections were not “free nor fair”, reported EFE news agency.

"The EU has been clear that the presidential elections were not free nor fair. The EU regrets that in spite of all the calls by the international community, including the EU, no fresh elections in conformity with international standards took place," an EU spokesperson told Euronews.

More isolation for Maduro?

“Maduro is already isolated by many of these countries and their leaders, but this move might have a more formal impact on diplomatic relations between the Venezuelan government and countries within and beyond the hemisphere,” said Tim Gill, an expert on Venezuela at the University of North Carolina.

“It's possible, of course, that the Mexican government or other actors can play a constructive role in fostering dialogue between the government and the opposition, but it's also possible that this recent manoeuvre might harden the Maduro regime and sever what's left of existing ties between other countries and Venezuela,” he added.

For Gill, the international isolation will help Maduro justify “his claims that there is a global conspiracy against his socialist government, led by the US and promoted by US allies.”

Which countries recognise Maduro as Venezuela's president and which don't

Maduro is being reelected during the worst economic crisis ever to hit the country, with millions suffering food and medicine shortages, hyperinflation, and growing insecurity, which critics say are the result of the dysfunctional government. As a result, an estimated 3 million people have fled the country.

He is being sworn in by the Supreme Court rather than the opposition-run Congress, which the Socialist Party lost control of in 2016.

'International community in a difficult position'

Gill said that most of the international community was actually in a difficult position regarding Venezuela.

"Maduro has generally been intransigent and has continually defied many democratic norms. Many leaders want to properly respond to Maduro's undemocratic behaviour, but should they sever their ties, they might lose any future leverage they might wield in negotiations."

Gill noted that it was important for global leaders that reject Maduro's second term as president to be clear on what they would like to see from the Venezuelan president.

"If it's simply the ouster of the regime, there is little incentive for the Venezuelan government to alter any of its undemocratic behaviours," he added.