Caracas rally marks year since disputed Maduro poll win

Caracas (AFP) –


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, unblock Venezuela" -- a reference to a raft of crippling US sanctions aimed at Maduro's socialist 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 foodstuffs and medicines, and causing millions of Venezuelans to flee.

Maduro 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.