Nicolas Maduro celebrates start of second presidential term as devastating economic crisis worsens in Venezuela

Samuel Osborne

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has started a second term in office, in the face of growing isolation from the international community and a worsening economic crisis.

A dozen Latin American governments and Canada have joined together in a coalition to reject the legitimacy of Mr Maduro's next six-year term, and the US has sanctioned top officials in his government.

However, Cuba's president Miguel Diaz-Canel and Bolivia's president Evo Morales were among foreign leaders who attended the ceremony at the country's supreme court.

While Mr Maduro's popularity has plunged amid hyperinflation, scarcities and rising authoritarianism, supporters in shantytowns who receive government subsidies continue to back the late Hugo Chavez's successor.

Leaders from the ruling Socialist Party called for rallies in his support and disavowed criticism of Mr Maduro's inauguration, which will keep him at the helm of the country until 2025.

But continued support from the military, a fractured opposition and a relentless crackdown on opposition critics means Mr Maduro appears to face few serious challenges at home, despite the international outcry.

"They've tried to turn a constitutional swearing-in ceremony into a world war," Mr Maduro said during a news conference on Wednesday. "But whether there's rain, thunder or lightning, we're going to triumph."

State TV showed Mr Maduro arriving at the supreme court where he is taking the oath of office. Several hundred supporters inside lining terraces of the building's courtyard waving small flags and cheering.

His second term will extend Venezuela's socialist revolution amid widespread complaints he has stripped the country of its last vestiges of democracy.

Mr Maduro denies he is a dictator and often accuses Donald Trump of leading an economic war against Venezuela.

"Not before, not now, nor will there ever be a dictatorship in Venezuela," Mr Maduro said during the news conference on Wednesday.

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Oil-rich Venezuela was once among Latin America's wealthiest nations, producing 3.5 million barrels of crude daily when Chavez took power, but output has now plummeted to less than a third of that.

Inflation is fast approaching two million per cent and an estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled hyperinflation, food and medical shortages over the last two years, according to the United Nations.

The country's splintered opposition movement has failed to counter the socialist party's dominance and Mr Maduro's government has jailed or driven into exile its most popular leaders.

Additional reporting by agencies