Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro defended his government’s legitimacy Sunday as his bid for a second six-year term has come under growing fire internationally and by the country’s opposition-controlled National Assembly.
In another sign of turmoil around Maduro, who is to be sworn in Thursday, the Venezuelan Supreme Court confirmed that a justice who sat on a panel that deals with electoral issues has fled the county.
News of the defection of Christian Zerpa came a day after the opposition-controlled National Assembly declared Maduro’s presidency to be illegitimate and called for a transitional government to organize democratic elections.
Responding on Twitter, Maduro declared: “Legitimacy has been given us by the people with their vote. To those who hope to break our will, make no mistake. Venezuela will be respected!”
Maduro was re-elected May 20 in presidential elections called by a regime-backed Constituent Assembly and boycotted by the opposition, many of whose best-known leaders were under house arrest or barred from running.
The United States, the European Union and a grouping of countries from the Western Hemisphere called the Lima Group have refused to recognize the election.
On Friday, Canada and 12 other Lima Group countries joined in calling for Maduro to step down and open the way for a transitional government formed by leaders of the National Assembly.
The US State Department issued a statement 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.”
On Sunday, the Venezuelan foreign ministry accused Washington of attempting “to consummate a coup d’etat … in promoting the repudiation of legitimate and democratic institutions.”