Nicolas Maduro succeeds Hugo Chavez in Venezuela
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Last Updated: Wednesday, March 06, 2013, 19:13
  
Zeenews Bureau

Caracas: Nicolas Maduro, Vice-President of Venezuela, took over the leadership of the country after the death of President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday. Chavez, 58, was battling with cancer from the past two years.

Chavez had declared Maduro as his successor on December 8 and had said that in case his illness prevents him from taking oath on Jan, then supports should elect Maduro as the president, as per news agency report.

The immediate challenge being faced by Maduro after assuming the leadership of the country is to unite the divided country while maintaining unity in party’s rank.

The 50-year-old former bus driver won Chavez's trust as a loyal spokesman who echoed the president's stances. How Maduro will lead in Chavez's absence remains to be seen, although he's widely known as both a skilled negotiator and a leader who views upholding his mentor's legacy as his personal crusade and responsibility.

One of the biggest tasks Maduro will likely face is attempting to hold together a diverse movement that includes radical leftists, moderates and many current and former military officers.

Analysts have speculated that differences might emerge between factions led by Maduro and Diosdado Cabello, the influential National Assembly president who is thought to wield power within the military. But thus far both men have denied such divisions and vowed to remain united.

After Chavez's Dec. 11 cancer surgery, Maduro stepped up his public appearances to fill the void, providing regular updates on the president's condition, calling for unity among allies and lambasting the opposition.

Maduro also showed how he could attempt to continue Chavez's socialist-inspired project. Speaking at one December rally, he vowed in vague terms to maintain policies that have angered the country's leading business federation, Fedecamaras, which was long at odds with the president.

It's unclear when Maduro and Chavez first met. But Chavez is thought to have first gotten to know Maduro in the 1980s, when Chavez was a lieutenant colonel and began a clandestine movement of disgruntled military officers that eventually carried out a failed coup attempt in 1992. Chavez was jailed on military rebellion charges and then released in 1994 when he was pardoned.

Maduro went on to become a leading member of Chavez's nascent political movement, growing closer to the budding politician and also getting to know Cilia Flores, who is now attorney general and was Chavez's defense attorney following his arrest for the 1992 coup attempt.

After Chavez was elected president in 1998, Maduro was selected to join a special assembly to draft a new constitution. He was later elected to the National Assembly and then became president of the legislature.

Maduro was named foreign minister in 2006 and oversaw international efforts such as consolidating the regional diplomatic blocs ALBA and Unasur, strengthening relations with countries such as Russia, Iran and China, and overseeing a rapprochement with US-allied Colombia. He is thought to maintain close ties with Cuba's government.

Before Chavez underwent his latest operation in December, he explained why he had chosen Maduro: “He's one of the young leaders with the greatest ability to continue, if I'm unable to — God knows what he does — if I'm unable to, to continue with his firm hand, with his gaze, with his heart of a man of the people, with his gift for people, with his intelligence, with the international recognition he's earned, with his leadership, leading the presidency."


First Published: Wednesday, March 06, 2013, 13:46


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