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Venezuelans In South Florida Protest As Nicolás Maduro Sworn In For Second Term

As Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was sworn in to a second term on Thursday in Caracas, nearly a hundred Venezuelan-Americans and exiles protested in Miami against his recent reelection, calling it a sham.

The demonstrators held signs and yelled outside Venezuela’s consulate in Downtown, saying the election was just the latest corrupt action by Maduro's dictatorship. Already, more than a dozen countries across the world have refused to recognize his presidency.

The protestors now want international pressure on Maduro to help end Venezuela's devastating humanitarian crisis.

“It’s a situation that’s intolerable. This man cannot be president. He rigged an election,” said Maria Morin, who is part of the Venezuelan Organization of Politically Persecuted in Exile. 

Election officials have said Maduro won 68 percent of the vote in a presidential election last year, despite reports of fraud and coercion and that it was held unconstitutionally. Independent international observers did not oversee the race, and a boycott among opposition leaders and a crackdown on critics resulted in an extremely low turnout.

The U.S., European Union and 12 other Latin American countries that are part of the Lima Group have said they do not accept the legitimacy of Maduro’s presidency. Brazil, Argentina and Canada have also called for Maduro to restore the country’s opposition-led National Assembly, which he shut down last year.

During his inauguration on Thursday, Maduro said his new six-year term was a “step of peace for our country.” He has accused the U.S. and other countries of orchestrating a coup against him.

The swearing in came as Venezuela suffers from rampant inflation and corruption and dire shortages of medical supplies and electricity. A country that once thrived on its oil industry and socialist agenda for the poor is now experiencing plummeting petroleum production and cannot provide basic necessities like food and water.

Millions of people have fled the country, some of whom were at Thursday’s protest. Although she was born in the U.S., Lucia Baez spent most of her life in Venezuela. She moved away four months ago. 

“I cried every single day while I was there because, okay, I have the means to live, but my neighbors, my friends, everybody was suffering so much,” Baez said. 

Credit Sam Turken / WLRN
Protestors held signs and chanted on Thursday outside the Venezuelan consulate in Miami.

Despite international recognition of oppression across the country, Venezuela's future appears bleak. Maduro has stiffled dissent with many opponents in prison or exile. And although the Trump administration has increased sanctions on members of Maduro's inner circle, Russia and China continue to prop up his regime financially. 

Mexico's new leftist leader, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has also appeared friendlier with Venezuela than his predecessor. Although it's a founding member of the Lima Group, Mexico did not sign off on the group's statement denouncing Maduro. And last year, López Obrador invited Maduro to his inauguration. 

Demonstrators expressed differing opinions about how to address Venezuela’s crisis. Some called on the U.S. to help oust Maduro. Others said the Venezuelan military must finally topple him.

Alexis Rivero was among several people who said they send food, medical supplies and remittances to family members in Venezuela. Rivero mocked Maduro by wearing a similar mustache and wig and impersonating him. He called the lack of progress in the country absurd. 

“The people’s hunger—they have insecurity, they have horrible things. And nothing happens. It still remains the same, only worse and worse,” he said.

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