Maduro was sworn in today as President of the Republic for the period of 2019-2025 by his Constituent Assembly today, following his victory in Sunday’s presidential election. During the ceremony, Maduro gave a speech in which he attempted to lay out a vision for his next seven years in power that includes increasing oil production and freeing political prisoners.
In his rambling and vague manner of speak, Maduro attempted to stress the importance of having support from Venezuelans in order to make his next presidential term a successful one. He said:
Only the people can save the people, but if we don’t find the people, who will save the people? Superman? Or Super Nico [referring to himself]?
Maduro also alluded to “a conspiracy financed and directed from Colombia” that he claims is being “spurred on and promoted from the government of the United States”, and called on the Venezuelan military to remain vigilant in the face of the alleged threat. Maduro said:
Let no one lower his guard (…) who wanted to suspend the elections? Who wanted to affect the course of our elections and of democracy [sic]? (…) There’s a conspiracy out of Colombia to harm our National Armed Forces.
The swearing-in ceremony has no basis in Venezuelan law, since according to Article 231 of the Constitution the president must be sworn in on January 10 of the first year of his term. Because the presidential term to which Maduro was elected begins in 2019, he should have been sworn in on January 10 of next year. However, since the Constituent Assembly is made up of individuals hand-picked by the regime, it has always been eager to please Maduro’s whims.
Maduro Calls for “Dialogue” and “Pacification”
During his speech, Maduro said that in his new presidential term he would seek to engage in “dialogue” with the opposition in order to “pacify” the country. Maduro said:
I want to listen to the intellectuals, to all of the politicians from the other side. I’m capable of listening to them all. We need them. I want to listen to everyone in the business sector. I know them well.
Maduro said that as part of this process, he would release all political prisoners in the country as long as “they have not committed serious crimes or murders”.
The qualification is problematic because a proportion of political prisoners are being held under indefinite detention without ever having appeared before a judge, or have been given release orders that the authorities are simply choosing to ignore. Also, opposition figures who have in fact not committed any serious crimes or murders according to Venezuelan law–like Leopoldo Lopez–have been convicted of doing so in political trials.
On the alleged release, Maduro said:
There’s a group of people who were arrested for political violence. I want them to be freed so that we can have an opportunity [to launch] a national reconciliation process, with those who have not committed serious crimes.
This is not the first time that the Maduro regime has promised to free political prisoners in the name of national reconciliation. In November 2016, the ruling PSUV promised to free 71 political prisoners as part of a dialogue process with the opposition. That promise went unfulfilled.
The Foro Penal Venezolano (FPV), a human rights NGO that works on the matter of political prisoners, said that it was not aware of any detailed proposition to release any political prisoners.
Maduro: Economic Collapse “Not My Problem”
During his speech, Maduro spoke on the unprecedented economic collapse that has brought Venezuela to her knees since he took office in 2013, resulting in the death, suffering and displacement of an untold number of Venezuelans.
Maduro attempted to absolve himself of any responsibility for the crisis, saying that only according to “stupid reductionism” could the country’s economic condition be blamed on him. On the country’s economic woes, Maduro said:
This isn’t Maduro’s problem. It would be very simply if it were one man’s problem (…) if it were my problem, it’d be stupid reductionism [sic].
Maduro and the ruling PSUV party have maintained for years that Venezuela’s economy is suffering the effects of an “economic war”, which they claim is being waged by a shadowy cabal that includes virtually everyone who is critical of the regime, including the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the United States, the media, and Venezuelans living abroad.
Lawyers, Regime Critics Lament Ceremony
Perkins Rocha, a lawyer with an opposition group, lamented the fact that Maduro was sworn in today as the act stands against Venezuelan law. According to Rocha:
This was an unnecessary–or nonexistent–act, which took place because it serves some purpose for the regime to give it some kind of legitimacy to what it has spuriously done. It’s a joke on all Venezuelans for someone to be sworn in [now] for a presidential term that begins in 2019.
Rocha said that today’s swearing-in ceremony is so contrary to law and established norms that he is “not sure how to qualify it”.
The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), the country’s political opposition bloc, called the ceremony at the Constituent Assembly “a joke”.
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