Nicolas Maduro sworn in as Venezuelan leader, announces release of political prisoners | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 25.05.2018
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Nicolas Maduro sworn in as Venezuelan leader, announces release of political prisoners

The president made the announcement during his swearing in ceremony before the Constituent Assembly. The government has jailed more than 300 people for reportedly inciting violence during anti-government protests.

Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro announced the release of an unspecified number of opposition prisoners on Thursday during his swearing in ceremony for a second term as president.

Maduro, who won Sunday's presidential election with more than 68 percent of the vote, said the release of people who had taken part in anti-government protests in recent years was part of a policy of "pacification" and "reconciliation."

The government has imprisoned more than 300 people on charges of inciting violence during protests in 2014 and 2017 that left at least 160 people dead, according to Venezuelan Penal Forum, a rights group.

Read more: Sanctions or diplomacy? Venezuela election divides EU lawmakers

US sanctions 'do not intimidate me'

Maduro's announcement followed a swearing in ceremony before the government-controlled Constituent Assembly, a body he created in July 2017 to side-step the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

The National Assembly, which according to the constitution should have conducted the swearing in ceremony, said it would not recognize the result of Sunday's vote.

During his swearing-in speech, Maduro denounced fresh US sanctions against the Venezuelan government in response to Sunday's vote. The new sanctions "do not intimidate me," he said, adding that they "make the people suffer," but that the country would "overcome … painful difficulties."

Washington announced the sanctions after dismissing the presidential election as a "sham." Twelve Latin American countries and the European Union, as well as Venezuela's opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), have also slammed the vote as undemocratic.

Read more: US expels two Venezuela diplomats in diplomatic tit-for-tat

'Not doing enough'

In his speech, Maduro also vowed to make sure the government would do better, acknowledging that that Venezuela's leaders "are not doing enough nor well enough."

Hyperinflation has plunged the Latin American country into the worst economic crisis in its history. Food and medicine shortages are widespread, while hundreds of thousands of people have fled the country.

Maduro said Venezuela would increase its oil output by a million barrels per day to spur economic activity. The country depends on oil for 96 percent of its foreign revenues.

Maduro's six-year term formally begins on January 10, 2019.

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