World leaders to skip Nicolas Maduro inauguration as Venezuela prepares for 'sham presidency'

Cody Weddle
President Nicolas Maduro speaks on the eve of assuming a new, disputed six-year mandate - AFP

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro will be sworn-in for a second, six-year term on Thursday despite his country’s continued economic spiral that has sparked the region’s worst ever migration crisis.  

Maduro’s new term will bring further international presssure on Caracas as dozens of countries have called his May re-election fraudulent and pledged not to recognise his new government.

The European Union is expected to release a strongly worded warning hinting that further EU sanctions could be levied on the country, should the president continue to flout human rights and the rule of law.

Guy Verhofstadt, the influential MEP and leader of the liberals in the European Parliament, told the Telegraph, “The EU should no longer recognise the legality or legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro’s sham presidency.”

The lack of international recognition will be apparent from the lack of foreign visitors inauguration ceremony for Maduro, due to be held at 10 am outside the Supreme Court building. Only Cuba and Bolivia have confirmed their presidents will attend, while a handful of other countries will send diplomats.  

Plans to organize a mass boycott of the investiture ceremony by all 28 EU ambassadors to Venezuela appeared to have fallen foul of divisions in the bloc, however.

The Telegraph understands that the Spanish and Greek ambassadors will attend, but Britain’s will not.

A kilogram of carrots is pictured next to 3,000,000 bolivars, its price and the equivalent of $0.46, at a mini-market in Caracas, Venezuela August 16, 2018. Credit: Reuters

Other drastic proposals within Latin America, such as the withdrawal of diplomatic missions from the country or the appointment of a parallel president in exile, have also been rejected for now.

The isolation and new sanctions could also spark further defections from Maduro’s government circle.  On Saturday, former Supreme Tribunal Justice Christian Zerpa fled to the US, telling Miami broadcaster EVTV he was “disavowing” the Maduro government.

“I believe (Maduro) does not deserve a second chance because the election he supposedly won was not free and competitive,” he said.

In his new term Maduro will deal with a country in disarray, facing an unprecedented economic crisis with some economists now projecting inflation to reach 10 million percent in 2019.  Since 2015, UN figures show that three million Venezuelans have fled their country and two million could leave this year alone.

Even the most basic daily tasks have become nearly impossible; there are shortages of plastic for debit cards, the paper used for making passports, and shortages of medicines and foods continue.  The currency is so worthless that vendors across the border in Colombia make bags and wallets using the bills.

“I want somebody to just take this regime out,” said Jacqueline Torres, 48, outside of a Caracas bank on Wednesday.  She had her husband had travelled an hour to Caracas and spent the morning going from bank to bank to get a new debit card, but none had the plastic needed.

Demonstrators ride on a truck while rallying against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, Venezuela, June 29, 2017. Credit: Reuters

Torres, who suffers from a back injury, wants to travel to Colombia for medical exams, but hasn’t received her passport, even though she applied for the document a year ago.

“We’re bad off, and they have kidnapped the public institutions,” she said.  “We can’t do anything.”

Many of the millions with plans to leave the country view Thursday’s inauguration as the end of any hope for change.

“If I stay here, I won’t be able to do what I want and won’t be able to maintain myself,” said Williams Blanco, 30, who plans to leave for Ecuador by bus in three months. “I haven’t bought new shoes in three years, so that gives you an idea,” said the freelance actor and producer.

To squash any discontent, Maduro will rely on the armed forces and paramilitary groups known locally as colectivos, as he did during 2017 street protests.

In the days preceding the inauguration, local media have reported caravans of government supporters, including masked men on truck beds, passing through downtown Caracas. In one of the city’s most emblematic slums, traditionally a bastion of pro-government support, government supporters fired guns into the air on rooftops.

“We’re defending the homeland with arms,” colectivo leader Valentín Santana told local outlet Cronica Uno.