Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro rallied hundreds of supporters in Caracas Monday to mark the anniversary of his controversial May 2018 re-election following polls widely denounced as rigged. Carrying “March for Victory” banners, Maduro supporters took to the streets of the Venezuelan capital, many waving flags of the ruling Socialist party and wearing red T-shirts.
Some carried banners saying “Trump, end the blockade on Venezuela” — a reference to a raft of crippling US sanctions on Maduro’s regime. “We celebrate the first anniversary of the popular victory of May 20, the day in which Venezuela decided in favor of peace, democracy and freedom,” Maduro wrote on Twitter.
Maduro was expected to address the crowd outside the Miraflores presidential palace later Monday. The rally was taking place exactly one year after Maduro was re-elected with 68 percent of the vote in an election boycotted by the opposition. “It’s been a battle, a war. They haven’t let him govern,” said Maduro supporter Hector Aular, 62, describing the first year of the new government as “hard.”
Maduro has presided over the collapse of the oil-rich country’s economy, leading to shortages of basic food and medicine, and causing millions of Venezuelans to flee. He was sworn in for a second six-year term in January, shortly before US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido, claiming constitutional legitimacy as the National Assembly speaker, declared himself acting president.
Guaido quickly won recognition from more than 50 countries, but has failed to topple Maduro, who is backed by Venezuela creditors China and Russia and retains the support of the powerful military. Meanwhile, the all-powerful regime loyalist Constituent Assembly decided to extend its functions for another 18 months until the end of 2020.
The body, originally created by Maduro to write a new constitution, gave itself absolute power following its creation in August 2017. That came after months of anti-Maduro protests that left 125 people dead. Since then it has effectively replaced the sidelined and opposition-dominated National Assembly, while it has never presented any project related to the constitution. It was originally due to run for two years but will now continue to sit until December 31, 2020.
It is made up entirely of regime loyalists after the opposition boycotted its elections, branding it an unconstitutional body. The Constituent Assembly recently stripped 14 opposition lawmakers of their legislative immunity over their support for a failed uprising led by Guaido on April 30.