Category Archives: Maduro (Eduardo)

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.

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.

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.

Nicolás Maduro’s use of Religion as Political Tool

By Eduardo Sanchez

Religion plays an important role in the lives of Latin Americans and Venezuela is no exception. Maduro raised Catholic, uses religious language, either directly referencing the Catholic Church or by using metaphors in everyday situations as part of his discourse in public statements as well as in his social media usage. For Maduro, who lacks Chávez’s charisma, the use of these religious messages and images seems strategic, as a way of endearing himself to the Venezuelan masses.

Maduro gives many contradictory messages in the use of religion. In strongly identifying himself as Catholic, Maduro shows much reverence to the Pope. On a trip to Europe in June 2013, Maduro met with Pope Francis (the first Latin American pope in history) to strengthen ties between the Vatican and Venezuela. This was the first stop of the European tour, being highlighted as one of the most important meeting that Maduro would have with world leaders.

He has re-tweeted Pope Francis on an important number of occasions. For example, in September 2013 he re-tweeted eleven of the Pope’s messages (see Maduro’s feed on Sep. 2 [example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4], Sep. 3, Sep. 4, Sep. 6 [example 1, example 2], Sep. 25, Sep. 26, Sep. 30) most on world peace in the context of a possible military intervention in Syria. Maduro would also quote the pope as the voice of reason to stop the United States and other countries to going on another international war and thus setting the stage for advocating his own views (which matched that of the Pope). This specific context is an example of how he used religion to as a tool to fit his own rhetoric of being strongly opposed to any such intervention by the United States, At the same time by showing that religion (the Pope) was a voice for world peace, he could once again hope to endear himself to Venezuelans.

Not surprisingly, in recent months, he has only re-tweeted the pope approximately five times between October and December with most messages highlighting a Christian way of life centered on love and reducing materialistic tendencies of today’s societies. As the prospects for military intervention in Syria were drastically reduced, these religious messages were used to promote certain social rights, especially those that are compatible with the socialist project that Maduro continues to advance.

Additionally, religious and mystic images have also been attached to Hugo Chávez. In a first instance, Maduro considers himself an “apostle” of Chávez, solidifying the need to continue his legacy not only in terms of the Bolivarian revolution but also with a spiritual-mystical connotation. While Maduro’s position as a successor of Chávez is mostly seen as a political one, he has tried to mix religious concepts to add on to the political context. Maduro does not have and does not present himself as having any such characteristics of Chávez but uses the memory of Chávez for social unification and mobilization.

The messianic qualities that he attaches to the memory of Chávez have been strengthened on a number of occasions almost immediately following Chávez’s death as well as other sporadic events.

In early 2013, Maduro affirmed that Chávez’s spirit came to him in the form of a small bird to bless him. Months later, he again claimed that the same and that the spirit of Chávez was pleased with Maduro’s current performance guiding the country. In November 2013, Maduro was also quick to spread the news about a miraculous event involving the supposed appearance of the image of Chávez on a wall in a construction site.

The use of such messianic imagery, through apparitions and other actions, would seem to equate Chávez to saints and other mystical saviors. This nonetheless has an impact in a Latin American nation that is also fascinated by such stories.

Maduro states that he is Catholic but his Jewish ancestry and his veneration of an Indian spiritual guru have been called into question, especially by the opposition in a move to highlight the contradictions of his discourse. Regarding his Jewish ancestry, most critiques have come from his opposition to the Israeli regime and his strong support of Palestinian and other Arab nations. He has disregarded attacks of him being anti-Semitic precisely stating that his grandparents were Jewish who converted to Catholicism upon arrival to Venezuela. In this case, he seems to push forward his political views at the risk of being seen as someone who is going against his religion.

However, his following of the late Indian guru Sai Baba has sparked the most controversy. In 2005 Maduro visited India with his wife to seek the guru’s blessings and advanced a center in the Venezuelan capital to follow his teachings. This reverence for Sai Baba seems to come more from a genuine desire to seek spiritual salvation than to necessarily see it as a political tool, but it would also count as yet another contradiction from an outside perspective.

Maduro, thus exemplifies someone who is deeply religious and therefore adept in using religion as a political tool.

Nicolás Maduro – A President of the People

By Eduardo Sanchez

Nicolás Maduro has carefully portrayed himself as a politician closer to the people and tried to set himself apart from the hero-like characteristics of his mentor. He reaches out to the people as an ordinary Venezuelan but his rhetoric on social media gives one the idea of him continuing Chávez’s grand dream for the country. His trademark speeches, media appearances, and Twitter messages involve vast references to the late Hugo Chávez (on average, tweets about Chavez range between 5 and 7 times a week) and 19th century hero Simón Bolivar (although to a lesser degree and mostly once or twice a week). The duties that he fulfills or the triumphs of his administration are clearly regarded as mere results of following what the “great leader” had intended for Venezuela.

And yet, there is something different in the way he subtly continues to portray himself as someone carrying on the legacy of Chávez and yet different. In a number of interviews (see for example Telesur interview of September 2013), Maduro refers to his early childhood and his constant contact with all kinds of people by which he strives to learn about the hardships of the poor. His initial involvement with politics was also a direct result of his everyday struggles. Working as a bus driver for six years, he felt compelled to fight for the rights of this sector and became a union leader with the support of his coworkers.

Later on although he held more prestigious political appointments, such as speaker of the National Assembly, minister of foreign affairs, and vice president and this meant he was to a degree distant from directly advocating for the plight of millions of Venezuelans, his presidency has been notable for redirecting attention to the people. In this sense, his image is charged with the notion of someone who has worked hard to gain the positions and power that have been conferred to him.

One of the social programs most frequently featured in press releases and his Twitter account is “Government of the street” (Gobierno de calle in Spanish) – having mentioned it at least 21 times in the month of October; the program also has an official Twitter account with further details. Maduro has advanced a government that takes into account the perspective from the ground and navigates the streets of Venezuela. This has afforded him the opportunity to be closer to the people and garner additional support to his endeavor. He portrays himself as a president that is aware of every issue that affects Venezuelans and that his direction will improve their lives. Even though Chávez himself was close to the people and would have direct contact with his supporters, Maduro steps away from the divine-like characteristics of Chávez to seem at least more accessible, more of an ordinary man.

Besides his formal image as president and steward of Chávez’s revolution, Maduro’s mundane activities are highlighted as much as possible to ensure that people can relate to him and vice versa. His love for music and dancing is present at major popular events (see for example tweet of 19 October 2013). He partakes in such activities in a mix of propaganda and closeness to the people. Images of him smiling, hugging supporters, dancing, riding bicycles, etc. are not uncommon in his Twitter feed and reproduced in government websites and newspapers (see for example Maduro dancing at a meeting with workers). In a way, Maduro wants to show his supporters that he knows how to make politics but he also knows how to have fun. On average, one or two weekly tweets have been dedicated to making sure that his followers are well aware of this, maintaining the seriousness of political events as well.

Nicolas Maduro – Steward of the Chavez Legacy

By Eduardo Sanchez

Nicolás Maduro was a close political ally of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. As Chávez gradually became retracted from the presidency due to a long battle with cancer, vice president Maduro progressively took over most of the president’s duties. His loyalty and similar political views made him the natural successor when Chávez’s deteriorated health was more than obvious.

Maduro was born on November 23, 1962 in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital. His father was a union leader with Jewish ancestry. His Jewish ancestry has been called out due to his alleged anti-Semitic views, which he vehemently denied by highlighting his lineage. However, he was raised a Catholic in the context of a religious Latin American culture. During his childhood he was known for defending the Cuban revolution and questioning the Venezuelan regime, which led to punishments by school authorities. Nonetheless, he also became involved with leftist movements and interested in Marxist teachings under the lens of his regional and political reality.

After graduating from high school, Maduro became a bus driver that later on would inspire him to become a union leader himself for the bus drivers in Caracas. This situation placed him on an incipient path towards politics although not deeply involved (at least for the first years) in the broader political context of Venezuela. Maduro met incarcerated Hugo Chávez during a trip organized for sympathizers. It is said that Chávez gave him specific tasks to contribute to his political cause for which would be rewarded in the future.

Maduro joined the “Fifth Republic Movement” political party that was behind the political advancement of Hugo Chávez to power. His membership to the prominent Bolivarian socialist party launched his political career towards attaining a position in the National Assembly. Later on he would become foreign minister and vice president under Chávez, strengthening the personal and political bond between them.

While Chávez was undergoing medical treatment in Cuba, Maduro would shuttle back and forth from the island to update the Venezuelan leader about the happenings of the country as well as bring back the almost messianic message of Chávez to his people. Maduro would present himself to the people letting them know what he had been instructed to do in the name of the leader and asking for loyalty to the cause.

On Chávez’s deathbed, Maduro was proclaimed the interim president of Venezuela, being fully trusted that he would carry on the revolutionary project and continue his legacy. Maduro has continued to utilize Chávez’s messages and speeches as a source of his current position of power, reminding the Venezuelan people that he acts on behalf of the late leader.

It is unclear the degree to which Maduro’s own personal and political views have imprinted the policies and actions bestowed in the name of his predecessor. Maduro’s interest in Marxism and the possible adaptations to Venezuela have most likely had a bearing on the matter. His constant evoking of Chávez’s memory can be well serving his own interests while reducing the questions and challenges from a broader base. His legitimacy continues to be questioned which has prompted him to adopt more authoritarian measures that can resemble those of Chávez while in power. The justification invariably rests on the greater socialist and revolutionary path and he is careful to attach the names of Chávez and Bolívar in this endeavor.