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LATIN AMERICA | 10-01-2019 13:35

Paraguay cuts ties as Maduro is sworn-in for a second term in Venezuela

Socialist leader shrugs off absence of most of the region's leaders as he begins new term in office that will run until 2025

Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro was sworn in this afternooon for a controversial second term as president, posing a challenge to the United States and much of the international community that have branded his mandate illegitimate.

In a sign of how strained relations with much of Latin America have become, the ceremony was boycotted by the European Union, United States and Venezuela's Latin American neighbours.

However, the presidents of Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua attended the inauguration to support Maduro. Gleisi Hoffmann, representing Brazil's opposition Workers' Party (PT), also attended.

Just minutes after his inauguration, Paraguay announced it was cutting diplomatic ties with the nation. President Mario Abdo Benítez said in an official statement: "I have arranged the closure of our Embassy and the immediate withdrawal of diplomatic personnel" who are in Caracas. He urged other countries to express themselves "with concrete facts on behalf of the Venezuelan people."

Maduro, 56, was sworn in by Supreme Court president Maikel Moreno, amid cheers and applause by a crowd of hundreds attending the inauguration in Caracas.

State TV showed 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.

In remarks to those gather, Maduro vowed to continue the socialist revolution under way for two decades.

Maduro was sworn in by the Supreme Court, despite the country's laws stating this is the job of the National Assembly. However, the opposition-controlled body has been rendered impotent ever since Maduro created a rival Constituent Assembly filled with regime loyalists last year to replace it.

Speaking prior to his inauguration to the Constituent Assembly, Maduro warned the opposition not to move against him, threatening that he would "act against the National Assembly if they attempt a coup d'état."

The president faces significant challenges ahead, with Venezuelans witnessing the world's highest rate of inflation and widespread economic turmoil. Maduro's popularity has plunged amid scarcities of basic goods, hyperinflation and rising authoritarianism that have sparked a mass emigration.

The United States and a dozen Latin American countries, gathered together under the banner of the Lima Group, reject Maduro's legitimacy, saying he rigged the election granting him another six-year term. 

- TIMES/AFP/AP

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