Inauguration day could have gone better for the man picked to lead Venezuela’s socialist revolution for the next six years.
Hours before President Nicolas Maduro’s swearing-in, his government announced it would allow a full audit of the razor-thin vote that the opposition says he won by fraud, which analysts said was likely a bow to both domestic and international pressure.
Then the massive crowds that used to pack the streets for late leader Hugo Chavez failed to appear.
Finally, a spectator rushed the stage and interrupted Mr. Maduro’s inaugural speech, before he was grabbed by security.
It was an inauspicious start to the first full term of the burly former bus driver labouring in Chavez’s shadow and struggling to inspire the fervour that surrounded the former Lieutenant Colonel during his 14 years in power. Addressing a dozen heads of state including Presidents Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Raul Castro of Cuba and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mr. Maduro promised to address crime and purge popular social service programmes of corruption and inefficiency, though he mentioned few specifics.
Venezuelan government officials appeared confident there will be no reversal of the result by an audit that’s only slated to begin next week and could drag on well into May.
The announcement late on Thursday night came moments before an emergency meeting of the union of South American leaders, Unasur, in Lima, Peru to discuss Venezuela's electoral crisis. The leaders wound up endorsing Mr. Maduro’s victory. Analysts said that appeared to be in exchange for his concession to the audit.