Nicolás Maduro – a nationalist leader living in fear

By Eduardo Sanchez

Nicolás Maduro’s inflamed rhetoric of nationalism is easily perceived at first glance from speeches, addresses to the nation, messages to the media, and his social media interactions. For him, the Venezuelan people must express their patriotic and nationalistic pride in following certain conducts like voting for the party in power and not aiding the opposition.

For Maduro and his followers, coups are always on the verge of taking place or new plots to assassinate him are discovered, creating an environment of ever-present threats that translates into suspicious activities on behalf of the opposition and of any other actor that questions the leader. This reinforces that those who support and protect him are actively demonstrating their nationalism, while those who don’t support him are part of the “fascist” opposition or the “bourgeoisie” that go against any of the national and patriotic values.

There is also a constantly evoking of the image of the “other”. This amorphous and dynamic other has many facets in accordance with the antagonistic needs of the moment. One facet primarily relates to internal/domestic actors and an external one that is always at odds with Venezuela and specifically with Maduro’s administration. There is no room for healthy competition with peers and other countries, as the only outcome is “win-or-lose it all” scenario.

The individual leader is a central figure, the one who is always under attack and the one who has to take blunt decisions for the good of the nation. Although Maduro has displayed this behavior, he also deflects most of the attention towards the image of Chávez, calling for national unity under the memory of the late leader and to almost unconditionally follow Chávez’s plan for Venezuela

The recent conflict in Venezuela has prompted messages from Maduro and his cabinet that point to the combination of the internal and external enemies as responsible for the violence. This situation justifies the government’s harsh response against the rioters and those who question Maduro. Mixed messages include officially calling for peace but at the same time pointing at a strong hand as the only solution against the “fascist gangs”.

It is noteworthy that the international community’s interest in the internal situation in Venezuela has also led to Maduro to tweet extensively in English to justify the government’s position or to explain certain actions and messages. Maduro’s Twitter account in English registered 43 tweets on February 13, while a “standard” day like January 4 only shows 7 tweets. The Twitter feed also presents messages from the vice president, members of the cabinet, and journalists translated to English in support of the government and against the supposed manipulations from international actors and media.

To conclude, Nicolás Maduro’s personality traits point to a particular type of leader that has been referred to as the “oppositional nationalist” by scholar Jacques Hymans. Even though this concept is commonly used in the field of nuclear nonproliferation, it offers important psychological insights to the managerial style of a specific type of leader. Such leaders are in essence paranoid, finding threats to their leadership (there is always a zero-sum competition) everywhere and heavily rely on nationalism and patriotic pride to mobilize the masses (which fits well with Jerrold Post’s concept of a paranoid leader). The “oppositional nationalist” model clearly fits Nicolás Maduro and his political style. It could also fit the late Hugo Chávez as they share many similarities in their managerial style that focuses on threats and extreme nationalism.

Nicolás Maduro and the socialist revolution

By Eduardo Sanchez

The late Hugo Chávez was widely know in Latin America and the rest of the world for being a fierce promoter of socialism and a revolution of the oppressed people of Venezuela. His successor, Nicolás Maduro has been a long-time believer in Chávez’s project and has continued this tradition, advancing a similar rhetoric.

Maduro’s discourse surely advances the notions of the need for a united nation and patriotic believers in Chávez socialist project for Venezuela. Certain images are needed to garner support especially among the civilian population. In this context, the need for a common enemy (or even a variety of enemies) is an important factor in the discourse of exclusion. Moreover, the inflamed nationalistic and patriotic messages are also charged with the language of the need for a political-economic system that is clearly at odds with the majority of the world.

He portrays capitalism as one of the world’s greatest evils and needless to say it is directly equated to the opposition. His adversaries are also tagged with the word “fascists” (which appears consistently on his Twitter messages, 6 times in October – example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4, example 5, example 6). The use of these negative images from some of the most authoritarian and destructive regimes in Europe reminds his followers of those who attempt against their liberties and who want to promote capitalism in the citizen’s disfavor.

While Maduro’s administration has redirected resources in favor of social needs, the economic distortions resulting from the state’s tight control on revenues and social programs have undoubtedly affected the economy. However, these consequences are once again blamed on the opposition, the capitalist “bourgeoisie” and countries like the United States. He has even advanced the notion of these actors implementing a well-planned and cohesive “economic war” against the government, the Venezuelan economy, and the people.

Maduro’s trademark initiative “Government of the Streets” (Gobierno de Calle) is deeply embedded with a revolutionary rhetoric and putting socialism ahead of any other system to guarantee the wellbeing of the citizens. It intends to make decision-making processes more inclusive in line with some of the basic premises of socialism. He has used this social media platform to inform about the highlights of the program as well as reaching out to the people in a combination of accountability and inclusion. “Government of the Streets” has even become a hashtag #GobiernoDeCalleCaminoDeChavez used by government officials and has an officially sanctioned Twitter account (@GobDeCalle) that goes further into specific details. It is therefore that the initiative is also one of the prominent themes in Maduro’s Twitter feed.

The discourse of the Venezuelan president constantly hails other leaders around the world such as Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and China’s key political figures, who are also in line with criticisms to capitalism (at times in a less confrontational manner than that put forward by Maduro). This helps in reinforcing the notions of inclusion and exclusion to strengthen the relationships with these specific political and economic partners.

Social media has become an important avenue to spread Maduro’s revolutionary message, being instrumental in both highlighting the government’s successes and the forging of the image of the “other” in the opposition, outside actors, and political-economic-social systems at odds with the Bolivarian version of socialism for Venezuela.


Nicolás Maduro: the clothes that make the man

By Eduardo Sanchez

An important aspect of world leaders is the image that they project and their clothing is a central element in the way they present themselves to the world. While the standard image that comes to mind when thinking about a president is very formal attire, the president of Venezuela can easily be seen wearing a sports-like jumpsuit with the national colors and symbols whenever he is touring the streets of Venezuela or during official meetings.

However, Nicolás Maduro’s choice of attire is a continuation of Hugo Chávez’s style; Chavez began wearing more informal clothes when he was not wearing his traditional military uniform and trademark beret. Chávez became famous for his own style, which became part of his revolutionary image.

Once Maduro became president he followed his mentor’s example and now wears his nation’s proud colors and is not afraid to meet even other foreign dignitaries in this attire. We can assume that this is part of his image building strategy to bring him close to the average Venezuelan citizen.

We usually associate power and respect to those dressed in more formal attire. The somewhat official Venezuelan jumpsuit can allow the leader to be more modest in the way that he dresses but at the same time it enables him to still demonstrate nationalism and pride in one single image.

This is not to say that there is no interchangeability, as he does wear formal suits to state events. Maduro is versatile in this aspect of his image in being able to appeal to specific circumstances and audiences.

Maduro’s Twitter feed greatly uses images to supplement his actual messages and his attire is usually what strikes the viewer in the first instance. The jumpsuit is especially useful when touring the streets and advancing social programs, once again reinforcing this informal nature and being close to the average citizen.

Another example is demonstrated in the military scene. Even if he does not have a military background, while acting as commander-in-chief of the nation, he will use the appropriate attire.

Nonetheless, sometimes Maduro’s choice of clothes might seem contradictory to the circumstances. During the many funerary events held for Chávez, Maduro attended some of them in a jumpsuit although this was not the case for the state funeral and other events where national and international political figures were present. Also the pictures from Maduro and Cilia Flores’s wedding show him in a very casual attire for such an event, although his guayabera shirt is typical of the Latin American region for wedding guests. Furthermore, he has also tweeted personal pictures of him and his wife taking a walk, for example during a weekend and while we would expect a truly informal attire on his behalf he still wore a jumpsuit with official Venezuelan symbols.

Maduro is then a man that does not need to conform to mainstream social codes such as “appropriate” clothes for a head of state. But this is not to say that he will not use variations to his image for calculated purposes.

Nicolás Maduro’s wife: the influence of the nation’s “First Combatant”

By Eduardo Sanchez

Some key persons have been influential in supporting Nicolás Maduro’s paranoid traits. His mentor, Hugo Chávez, with a comparable rhetoric, would have definitely been an enabler . Second to Chávez, a central player in his personal and political life is his wife, Cilia Flores. The couple met when Chávez was in jail in 1992 and she was his lawyer.

Flores, a long-time follower of Chávez and a believer in his project for Venezuela was at one point Attorney General and speaker of the National Assembly. Chávez trusted her to be his “strong hand” in terms of handling legal and “revolutionary” matters. Maduro has said (a number of times) that Cilia is his “life partner”, who has had an important impact on him, as she was committed to helping Chávez and other revolutionaries who had been jailed.

Throughout the years, Flores has been an important support for Maduro and they have been unofficially dubbed Venezuela’s “power couple”. She continues to be prominent in the political arena and has even been accused of continuing to be ruthless in favor of Chávez’s (and by extension, to Maduro’s) plans. Moreover, she has been central to Maduro’s political strategy in the face of opposition to him and to the Chavista movement itself. It is said that Maduro has tasked her with secretly engaging the opposition to have them eventually acknowledge him as the legitimate authority.

It is for this reason that in his wife, Maduro has found a person that further encourages his paranoia and speaks a common language. Their joint involvement in Chávez’s political life (where she was also very influential) allowed them to live through past common experiences under the same rhetoric that is heavily influenced by Chavez’s traits of paranoia. They form a common front against the opposition and the enemies of the Chavista project.

Their July 15, 2013 marriage was announced to the people a few days after a private ceremony. Maduro’s Twitter feed included a number of retweets of journalist Teresa Maniglia who posted pictures of the couple’s wedding (example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4). Maduro also mentioned that their marriage was decided upon “to send a message of the importance of strengthening the Venezuelan family” (statement that is unclear but could refer to the Chavista family and unity against the opposition, as well as appealing to a conservative audience that values marriage and other religious traditions).

Counter to tradition across many nations, Cilia Flores is not referred to as the First Lady, rather as the “First Combatant of the Nation” at Maduro’s insistence. This term is preferred because Chavistas consider that the traditional notion of the “First Lady” (and the roles and duties she’s expected to perform) is the way of the “bourgeoisie”. It is therefore important to highlight her role as a recognized political and social figure in helping steer the country into the Bolivarian revolution that Chávez dreamed of. She has been charged with different political initiatives to promote socialism but also to garner more political support for Maduro (which she had also done before his contested elections to the presidency). She undoubtedly forms part of Maduro’s inner circle of trusted people and she share’s his radical activism and confrontational language against the opposition. She has had a strong influence in the greater politics of the Venezuelan nation, her activities are usually behind the scenes and almost always appears in the background of Maduro’s addresses to the nation and political events clearly supporting him. Although she is not as politically active as during her years as General Attorney or speaker of the National Assembly, Maduro wants her to be more prominent than past First Ladies because she has an active role in the Bolivarian revolution.

It is notable that Maduro’s social media usage has kept his private life separate although marginally including glimpses of their married live. On Twitter pictures, Maduro and Flores do not engage in much public displays of affection while other available pictures from events show more closeness between the two. Only in recent months has Maduro began posting pictures of activities where they appear together (riding a bicycle, hiking, walking through the forest, spending the day with their grandchildren, exercising, walking their dog) but he does not mention her.

The couple has not been far from criticism, especially from apparent contradictions in their life such as not being married until very recently in a very religious Latin American country (which is culturally frowned upon, especially for public figures) to venerating Indian guru Sai Baba (Flores was also a follower of Sai Baba and accompanied Maduro on a visit to India for this purpose). Some Venezuelan politicians have mentioned that Flores has manipulated Maduro from the beginning and has strengthened her grip on him through marriage. Such criticism refers to Maduro’s lack of consistency in his life, from cultural aspects to his administration of the country. Such inconsistencies at times are also calculated to appeal to the larger public, especially to make up for the qualities that he lacks in comparison to Chávez (charisma, political legitimacy, etc).

To conclude, Cilia Flores plays a very important role in Maduro’s life – personally and politically. While she may not play a very visible role in the nation’s politics at the present moment, she is very prominent in her influence over Maduro and the Chavistas. Maduro and Flores’ shared experience over the years and given the climate of paranoia (against the United States, capitalism, the Venezuelan opposition, against the world) under Chavez’s regime probably explains Maduro’s complete trust in her. But, that trust comes at the price of continued paranoia in which together, they view the world through a lens of suspicion. This view is supported by Maduro’s defensive attacks against any form of opposition and his spin of conspiracy theories on social media, especially twitter.

Kirchner’s Public Discourse

By Bryan Weiner

One of the key elements of a leader’s personality is their ability for public discourse. The Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech dealt with the issue of a leader who had a stutter and a fear of public speaking. Many claim that President Obama’s surge in popularity and his eventual unlikely presidential candidacy came from the moving keynote speech that he gave at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as well has a very distinctive and passionate style of public speaking and social media presence that highlights some key aspects of her persona and her character.

Many political speeches given by Latin American leaders are filled with fiery and passionate rhetoric. The charged speeches of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and Che Guevara’s call of “hasta la victoria siempre” resonate in the political discourse of the region. Kirchner is no different. Many of her speeches are passionate calls to her nation and her people to fight for what is right and for a better future for Argentina; a future that is in line with her Peronist/Kirchnerist populist and nationalistic vision for the country. In an analysis of Kirchner’s speeches conducted by Victor Armony, a researcher from the University of Quebec, he highlights the 10 most commonly used words in Kirchner’s speeches. What is unique about her speeches is the use of the word “creo” meaning, “I believe,” which he claims simultaneously shows the “force of her conviction and the possibility of her error.” He does however, also analyze that her “emphasis on ‘message’ and ‘vision’” can be powerful, but it can also come off as contrived. This is very noticeable in some of her other speeches and the criticisms they have drawn; they are moving and powerful, but they have a sense of a having a very carefully crafted message. One other noticeable element of her speeches is that they are very much directed at the average people and citizens of Argentina (generally not an unusual tactic for politicians). She uses this to reinforce the populist values of her overall political message.

With social media, however, leaders have an entirely new platform with which to connect to their citizens. This is a platform that has served Kirchner very well and ties directly in to her speaking style. Colin Docherty analyzes the unusual twitter presence of Kirchner and makes many interesting connections. Kirchner often doesn’t use the typical style of Twitter: condensing down information into a concise 140-character message. She will give the full text of speeches she has made over the course of 30-40 tweets or will speak conversationally over a series of tweets (the only time she makes stand-alone tweets are when they contain pictures or links to articles). Docherty theorizes that she is trying to connect directly to her base in her very open and conversational manner, and use that to carefully deliver her often-controversial message. When reading some of the tweets and their comments, this becomes very apparent; she is making casual connections and getting people to respond to her (although she never responds back to them).

What does this say about Kirchner’s persona, though? It tells a great deal about who she is as a leader and who she is as a person. Her passion and her conviction come through very clearly in both her speeches and her tweets, but they also reveal her to be a savvy politician with a very calculated message.

Kirchner: The Movement

By Bryan Weiner

Siempre voy a estar junto a ustedes desde cualquier lado, porque por sobre todas las cosas, soy una militante peronista de toda la vida” (I will always be with you from any side, because above all things, I am a lifelong Peronist militant/activist) – Twitter: 7/10/13.

Shortly after it was revealed that Evo Morales’ plane was forced to land in Austria due to pressure from the United States who believed that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was aboard, there was an emergency meeting of left-leaning Latin American leaders enraged by the incident. Upon leaving from that meeting, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, furiously tweeted about the need for Latin American leaders to come together to oppose the next wave of colonialism coming from the north, in the form of espionage and by keeping poor Latin American countries in the role of raw-material exporting economies. She called on the need for Latin American leaders to come together, rise up, and create a new world order and a “second independence”. She ended with the first quote, declaring that she is a Peronist militant for life.

These are strong words coming from a president who has incorporated the notion of revolutionary militancy as part of her political persona and presidential rhetoric. However, in order to gain a true understanding of who Kirchner is, it is important to look at the crucial (albeit short) period of time when Kirchner was actually involved in the political student movement.

Interestingly, while as a student at the University of La Plata she was quite involved in the Peronist movement and the various student groups aligned with the Fuerzas Armada Revolucionaria (FAR – the Armed Revolutionary Forces) with her soon-to-be husband, Nestor Kirchner, she never fully joined the actual militant group, the Montoneros. Her biography describes how she first became active in the movement when she was witness to the Ezeiza Massacre (a bloody massacre that occurred when right-wing Peronist forces opened fire on a crowd of the left-wing Peronists who were greeting Perón on his return from exile in Spain). During her university days, Néstor and Cristina regularly had militants stay in their home and she was even imprisoned for nearly a month (Chap. 8 “El Sur”) in January 1976 for her association with militants. Shortly after this she began to have a number of her close friends “disappear” and she and her husband decided to go to the safer and more out-of-the-way Patagonia following the military coup that overthrew the government of Isabel Perón on March 29th, 1976.

After working their way up through the political ranks, Néstor and Cristina burst back on to the political scene with their new form of left-leaning Peronism, often referred to as Kirchnerism, to rebuild the country through what Cristina now refers to as “La Década Ganada”. Her tweets, like the example, often play on the revolutionary leftist spirit that has swept much of Latin America. The rhetoric of anti-imperialism has a great deal of sway in a region that has borne the brunt of the heavy-handed, neo-imperialist policies of the United States.

Her experience as a militant leads one to question whether her militancy is really an expression of her ideals or whether it is part of a carefully crafted political strategy. She was outspoken and involved during her college days, but she was able to avoid the oppression and violence that many of her classmates and fellow revolutionaries faced. However, had she joined the ranks of the disappeared, she would never have had the opportunity to work within the system and create the revolutionary changes that have come through the last 10 years. Participation in violence doesn’t make someone a militant and Kirchner has certainly shown that she is willing to fight for what she believes in, but her championing Peronist militancy does fit very well into the greater political rhetoric that is sweeping Latin America.


Nestor and Cristina: A Presidential Love

By Bryan Weiner

When Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner opened her Instagram account on September 29th 2013, she posted 3 very emotional photos of herself and her late husband, Nestor Kirchner. The first of the three photos was a glamorous shot of Cristina with Nestor in the background, winking at her. One of the commentators replied “La Patria se hizo amor. Amor se hizo Patria.” (The homeland created their love. Their love created the homeland). The second photo is of a young, militant Néstor shrugging his shoulders. Cristina captioned it: “Militancia política ´no vine a dejar mis convicciones in la puerta de la Casa Rosada” (Political militancy “I didn’t come to leave my convictions at the door of the Casa Rosada – the seat of government”). The final photo shows Cristina looking longingly at her late husband and is captioned “El amor vence al odio” (Love conquers hate).

On October 27th, 2010, a few years after the end of his presidency, Néstor Kirchner died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack in El Calafate, in the Patagonian province of Santa Cruz, the region where he grew up and rose to political prominence. Cristina was president at the time and there was a great deal of uncertainty as to what would happen to her presidency after the death of her husband. Again, this was based on the assumption that Cristina was nothing without her husband and that she was just filling in for when he could run again for the presidency.

Cristina went through a long period of grieving. She wore nothing but black clothing in all of her public appearances. There was some criticism that this was done to win the sympathy of the Argentine public (which was successful as she easily won the election in October 2011), but when looking at the political love story that was one of the Kirchners’ legacies, it is very apparent that her grief was genuine. On November 18th, 2013, after more than three years of wearing black and after her month of mandatory bed rest from her surgery, she surprised everyone by beginning to make public appearances wearing white. In an editorial in the Economist, it was surmised that she was doing this “to have a fresh start with a government that is less combative and less tragic”.

It is clear that the extremely strong relationship between Cristina and Néstor has been a very important element in both of their presidencies. Sandra Russo’s biography of Cristina, La Presidenta: Historia de una Vida, describes in great detail the strong relationship that Cristina and Néstor had from the beginning. They met when he was student activist in the Federación Universitaria de la Revolución Nacional (FURN or the University Federation for National Revolution). They were 20 and 23 and quickly fell in love while both were involved in student activism (although neither joined the more militant wing of the movement). Six months later they were married. After the coup in 1976, they moved to Néstor’s home province in Patagonia to escape the dirty war. There they began their political careers and started a family.

They were a presidential duo from the beginning, and even though Néstor’s passing was a huge blow to Cristina, she managed to hold her own as a president, despite detractors who doubted her ability. However, the deep love between the two, who were considered and unlikely pair, has deeply resonated in both of their presidencies, and continues to resonate, even now that Cristina has made the decision to stop wearing black. This romance has been a defining element of her presidency and is an interesting reflection on her character. She is a strong, outspoken, and independent female leader of a country with a machista culture, but she has also portrayed herself as the doting, grief-stricken widow. Both seem to be essential elements of her personality and both shape her as a dynamic leader and public figure. She is not tied down by the persona of her late husband nor has she been completely incapacitated by grief over his tragic passing, but she also openly and fully acknowledges how she loves and is inspired by Néstor, and how her vision for Argentina is their vision.

Maduro – Traits of a paranoid personality

By Eduardo Sanchez

As any other world leader, Nicolás Maduro’s political and managerial style can provide some insight to his personality. This is sometimes more obvious in his discourse and social media usage. Jerrald Post explains personality traits of paranoid leaders that can well fit Maudro’s actions and rhetoric.

Maduro’s political activism was fast-tracked after meeting then-jailed Hugo Chávez, who became his role model and claims that he “made a spiritual commitment to him” to follow him without a question. When Chávez was president, Maduro was minister of foreign affairs and Vice President and did as directed by him. Once his mentor died, all of the pressure fell on Maduro himself. The appointment of Maduro as the successor was decided a few months before but it came with a mix of support, criticism, and skepticism from within the political scene and ordinary citizens. Such heavy criticism threatened him as Chávez’s successor, specifically because he does not possess his charisma, political resume, and military experience, among others. Even though Chávez had handpicked him, a constitutional controversy was cited requiring actual elections for Maduro to accede to power.

After Chávez’s death, when the opposition saw a window of opportunity to try to steer Venezuela back to democracy and loosen the extremely tight controls that existed under the Chávez regime. While Maduro officially won the elections, the opposition was quick to decry an electoral fraud.

Since becoming president, Maduro has surrounded himself with an inner circle of persons that remain loyal to him, giving them positions in the cabinet as well as empowering supporters in the media and civil society. Maduro’s Twitter feed heavily relies on retweeting the vice president, the minister of communication and information, journalist Teresa Maniglia, journalist and column writer Roberto Malaver, and youth activists (such as Genesis Aldana), among others. Their tweets are usually in support of Maduro and denouncing the “common enemies” of the socialist cause. In this sense, Twitter has also become an important platform to further the government’s (and Maduro’s) propaganda. Numerous examples of his Twitter feed reference to heightening the socialist ideology, attacking the “bourgeoisie” for undermining the country, denouncing the so-called imperialistic projects of countries like the United States, asking for total commitment to Chávez’s dream for Venezuela, qualifying the opposition as “fascists”, etc.

The socialist Bolivarian project for Venezuela under Chávez has been the main guideline for Maduro’s actions. Maduro presents himself as following the grand plan that Chávez had for Venezuela and he himself cannot divert from it (at least rhetorically). Equally important is invoking the memory of South American hero Simón Bolivar who at the time was also an inspiration for Chávez. The mentor and hero figure nurture a “rigidity of beliefs” and heavy reliance on past experiences of the paranoid personality according to Post.

The Venezuelan president has inflated the capabilities and intentions of the opposition as well of that of external actors against him. After large-scale problems with the electric grid in September 2013, which Maduro affirms forms part of a series of plots by saboteurs to undermine the economy, he convinced the National Assembly to grant him more powers under the “Enabling Law” which basically grants the president almost unlimited decision making powers to revitalize the economy and to stop corruption and money laundering. Both the capabilities of the enemies and the countermeasures required to stop them exceed what is currently happening. Equally important is recognizing this latest move to be granted additional decree powers as a clear example of a strategy to counteract future questioning on behalf of the opposition as well as of those within his ranks that could start to lose faith in his political ability to continue Chávez’s project. Exaggeration and ever-present enemies thus will further fuel the paranoia of the leader, constantly needing more and more power to counteract his possible adversaries.

Maduro’s lack of trust of those outside his inner circle and the continuous quest for common enemies (either against himself or the government’s social, economic and political project) has been present in his discourse and sometimes displayed very vehemently in his social media strategy. He has even gone as far as tweeting that a strong hand against fascists is the only way forward, justifying any means necessary to fiercely guard his person and his questionable policies.

Kirchner’s Mental Health

By Bryan Weiner

On July 20th, 2013, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner made an emotional speech about the Dirty War and those who had “disappeared”. By the end of the speech she and much of the audience were in tears. As if displaying emotions alone is not enough, she sometimes acts or makes statements in her emotional state. On July 27th, in a public appearance where she was speaking with a young boy, she was drawn to tears and let slip the words “puta madre” (mother fucker). She hastily apologized for the foul language in a series of tweets (for example) claiming that when she is “emotional, gets angry, is sad, or happy, she says bad words”. She has often gone on many rants on Twitter (sequences of 20 to 30 passionate tweets) on a variety of issues from attacking the press, to the Falkland Islands to lashing out at US Imperialism, for which she has been greatly criticized.

Does this say something about Kirchner’s ability as a president? Critics have suggested that she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown and that she is suffering from mental health problems. Even many of the comments and replies from her followers in response to her tweets seem very concerned about her health and well being. There was an embarrassing Wikileak in 2010 exposing how Hilary Clinton sent a cable to the US Embassy in Argentina questioning Kirchner’s mental health and asking diplomats to look into how she handles stress.

Now, of course, the big news was her recent surgery and the long period of bed rest that followed her surgery as well as her recent escape from the public sphere throughout the holidays, even as Argentina went through a number of crises. The circumstances around her hospitalization were also a bit uncertain and news was kept very tight. The final explanation was that it resulted from an accidental fall that she took last August. However, there have been connections made to the fragile politics of Argentina and a loss of political support for her party. There is a big question as to whether her current medical issues are related to stress and anxiety as the carefully constructed political movement that she has built with her husband, the former president Nestor Kirchner seems to be crumbling. Kirchnerism, a populist form of government related to Peronism, and embodied through Cristina’s call of a “Victorious Decade” (La Década Ganada), is slowly becoming less popular and Argentina is coming under more criticism for unpaid debts. These concerns are probably weighing heavily on the now-widowed president.

But, is this just another attack on her as a woman? Or more specifically an attack on her as a glamorous but outspoken and leftist female leader in a macho society? Hyper-masculine society claims that women can’t be good leaders because they are too emotional. In that way, it is easy to disregard them and relegate them to certain roles; Eva Peron was the mother of Argentina… as long as she was married to a powerful man. It was questioned when Cristina took over the presidency from her husband whether she would be able to hold her own, despite having always been a powerful and extremely capable student, activist, lawyer and politician.

Now again, as thing are going sour and Kirchner is facing legitimate health issues, the question of whether she is mentally competent or whether she is just another emotional woman is starting to rear its ugly head. As a very guarded person with regards to her private life, she doesn’t openly show her coping strategies for what is probably very real stress that she is facing. She keeps it hidden and spends two weeks completely out of the spotlight. It is easy for the critical press, media and outsiders to take her rants, her emotional behavior, and her health issues and put it in to the narrative of the “woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown”, thereby playing in to society’s sexist notions of what happens to a woman facing a great deal of pressure. A controversial social media presence fits easily into this narrative. While she may legitimately be facing stress-related health issues, it is unknown, and she may just be avoiding playing into the social media game.

Nicolás Maduro – Everyone against him?

By Eduardo Sanchez

Nicolás Maduro has become known for unveiling supposed plots against him and the Venezuelan nation. Addresses to the nation, interviews and social media have become platforms for revealing what he argues are elaborate and transnational operations to undermine his government and even assassinate him. Maduro’s constant revelations of orchestrated plots could be considered by some as conspiracy theories that have come to dominate his rhetoric.

This is not a completely new phenomenon displayed by a Venezuelan president. Hugo Chávez himself was also known for exposing foreign and domestic agents that supposedly planned to assassinate him. Moreover, once he was diagnosed with cancer, he blamed the United States having being involved in his medical condition. Maduro was not shy to support this theory especially after Chávez’s death.

Maduro has expressed on certain occasions that intelligence services have helped uncover plans to eliminate him, ranging from the internal opposition to complex international operations that involve the CIA. Maduro has blamed what he calls fascist groups for organizing attempts to assassinate him and other important political figures that lead the Bolivarian revolution. Furthermore, the United States almost always seems to at the center of the blame or being responsible for coordinating and directing groups in other countries to do so.

Maduro’s fears for his safety have also impacted international travel plans, hinting at Venezuela being one of the safest places for him. Of special mention was his cancellation of a trip to the United Nations in September 2013, where a number of heads of state usually take advantage to deliver their national message and to meet with other presidents and prime ministers. The Venezuelan president also mysteriously cancelled a trip to Peru for a summit arguing health reasons, but many speculated that there were other security considerations behind the cancellation. Maduro even pointed at aircraft manufacturer Airbus for negligence over a failure on Venezuela’s presidential airplane (which he tweeted about on September 26), also cited as evidence of the situation being part of a bigger conspiracy against him.

But attacks are not only to his person, he claims that the Bolivarian revolution started by Chávez is under constant siege. He has talked about attacks against the economy that pretend to undermine his government, going further to link the United States directly to such actions.

Most recently, on November 1st Maduro’s Twitter feed was inundated with messages denouncing a move to eliminate thousands of Venezuelan Twitter accounts, some of them belonging to members of his cabinet as well as his followers (example 1 – more than 400 retweets, example 2 – more than 1,400 retweets, example 3 – more than 1,300 retweets). Some of the tweets used a hashtag created for this situation #NoAlGolpeFacsistaDeTwitter (#NoToTwitter’sFascistBlow). He also retweeted Venezuelan citizens who were informing the same, as well as other Latin-American followers who mentioned a similar situation with supporters of Argentinian president Cristina Fernández. He later retweeted the Venezuelan minister of communication informed that everything had been resolved, hinting that actions at his level had been necessary to correct the situation.