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Anti-Maduro protesters gather in Venezuela as parliament vows ouster

Sinikka Tarvainen, DPA on

Published in News & Features

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Hundreds of Venezuelans on Friday protested against President Nicolas Maduro's second six-year term in office, calling on National Assembly President Juan Guaido to replace him in the role.

The meeting in front of a U.N. office in Caracas was called by the opposition-dominated National Assembly, which had declared itself in "a state of emergency" after Maduro took the oath in a ceremony boycotted by all but a handful of countries' presidents on Thursday.

"Nobody doubts that Maduro is a usurper," Guaido told the crowd, saying it was now his task to exercise power and calling for protest marches against the president to take place on Jan. 23.

He also called on the army to support a political transition.

Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, or OAS, said he would welcome Guaido becoming interim president of the country. "He has our support, that of the international community and of the people of Venezuela," Almagro tweeted.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera also expressed support for Guaido's fight for democracy in Venezuela.

Venezuela's ally Russia, however, gave its support to Maduro, accusing the United States of "shameless" meddling and "an overt encroachment on the sovereignty of Venezuela."

Venezuela's constitution stipulates that presidents are sworn in by the National Assembly, but Maduro took the oath before the Supreme Court after the National Assembly was sidelined by the pro-Maduro Constituent Assembly.

Only four Latin American presidents attended Thursday's swearing-in ceremony as international pressure mounted on Maduro, with the United States and the OAS calling his new term illegitimate.

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Paraguay has cut off diplomatic relations, while Peru and Honduras recalled their representatives in Caracas for consultations. The European Union said the May 20 presidential elections had not been democratic.

Maduro was first elected president in April 2013 after the death of his predecessor Hugo Chavez, under whom he had served as vice president. He then won a second term in the May elections, which were boycotted by most of the opposition amid allegations of fraud.

Venezuela is in the grip of a massive economic and political crisis, with oil production plummeting, hyper-inflation driving up food prices and rights activists alleging severe political repression.

Millions of Venezuelans have fled the crisis abroad.

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