What’s Next for Venezuela?
In post-Chavez Venezuela, politicians continue to attempt to reach voters through charismatic gestures, the U.S. is being blamed for various plots to kill Venezuelan leaders, and poverty and crime continue to be big problems.
It appears that Nicolas Maduro, the former vice president of Venezula who took over as interim president when President Hugo Chavez died on March 5, will follow much of the same path as the former president. If elected, Madura may continue to push the values of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. Madura’s opponent in the upcoming election, Henrique Capriles, has criticized Maduro for being a “poor imitation” of Chavez and for using the emotion of Chavez’s passing to propel his campaign forward.
Maduro announced he would work on the country’s number one issue if elected: violent crimes. Maduro did so in a manner reminiscent of the charismatic former president, yelling dramatically to crowds at a campaign event that he would go unarmed into Caracas’ most dangerous slums and ask the gangs to put away their weapons.
“We’ll go without fear, to tell these youths to stop the killing, to give up the guns, to come to Christ the Redeemer,” he told the crowds as he unzipped his tracksuit to reveal a red t-shirt adorned with the likeness of Hugo Chavez.
Maduro’s rival, Capriles, maintains that this strategy would never work. Capriles is of the center-right party, ‘Justice First,’ and has built his campaign around education, employment, security, and better management of the oil industry. Venezuela holds the largest crude oil reserves in the world, but the world has been largely denied access to them under Chavez and Maduro. If elected Capriles would allow global companies greater access to the reserves.
The election battle has been brutal so far and it seems Maduro has the advantage. A recent poll showed that he has a 14% lead over Capriles. According to Maduro, the election has been very brutal indeed. He claimed that the U.S. is behind a plot to assassinate Capriles, which was quickly denied. The election will be held on April 14.