Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has defended his government’s legitimacy amid growing opposition and international condemnation of his bid for a second six-year term.
In a Tweet on Sunday, Maduro, who is to be sworn in on Thursday, said the Venezuelan individuals had offered “legitimacy” to his administration “with their vote”.
“To those who hope to break our will, make no mistake. Venezuela will be respected!” he said.
His remarks came after the restriction controlled National Assembly declared Maduro’s presidency illegitimate and called on the military to support efforts to “restore democracy” in the South American nation.
Talking toward the beginning of a new legislative session on Saturday, Juan Guaido, the assembly’s new president, said legislators reaffirmed “the illegitimacy of Nicolas Maduro”.
“As of January 10, he will be usurping the presidency and consequently this National Assembly is the only legitimate representative of the people,” he said.
The assembly was rendered powerless by Venezuela’s Supreme Court after the opposition gained a majority there in 2016.
Maduro, who has presided over a virtual collapse of the economy in the oil-rich state, won an election last May generally condemned by the international community.
The ballot was called by the administration-backed Constituent Assembly and boycotted by the resistance, a significant number of whose best-known leaders were under house arrest or barred from running.
Turnout for the single-round vote was around 46 percent, as indicated by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), fundamentally lower than the 80 percent recorded amid the nation’s last presidential election in 2013.
The United States, the European Union and a bloc of nations from the Americas called the Lima Group have refused to recognise the poll result.
On Friday, the 14-member Lima Group – which consists of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Saint Lucia – issued a joint statement calling Maduro to surrender power and open the route for a transitional government framed by leaders of the National Assembly.
The US State Department, then, issued an announcement on Saturday saying the United States stands with the National Assembly as “the only legitimate and last remaining democratically elected institution that truly represents the will of the Venezuelan people”.
The US has imposed sweeping sanctions on Venezuela because of Maduro’s alleged erosion of the country’s democracy.
Responding to the State Department’s remarks, the Venezuelan foreign ministry accused Washington of attempting “to consummate a coup d’etat … in promoting the repudiation of legitimate and democratic institutions” in a statement issued on Sunday.