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.