In the presidential elections in Venezuela, the candidate from the ruling party, one of the closest associates of Comandante Hugo Chávez, Nicolas Maduro, with great difficulty, managed to beat the leader of the united opposition, Enrique Capriles. He enlisted the help of 50,7% voters, while his rival received 49,1% votes. Victory, frankly, unconvincing. And, according to experts, the new leader of Venezuela, who does not possess even a hundredth of the charisma of his predecessor, will be forced to make concessions to the opponents of the Bolivarian model or finally tighten the screws.
On the eve of the elections, sociologists predicted that the gap between the rivals would be at least 15%. It seemed that the mass hysteria about the death of Chavez would allow his successor to win an easy victory. Moreover, during the election campaign, the political technologists Maduro exploited the image of the legendary Comandante with all their might. The central TV channels showed an animated video in which Chavez meets Che Guevara and Simon Bolivar in paradise. In addition, the body of the ex-president was never interred and was in the Museum of the Revolution of Caracas. And Maduro, registering his candidacy at the CEC, proclaimed: "I, of course, not Chavez, but I am his son."
He tried to play on the emotions of the Venezuelans, many of whom perceived the death of the Comandante as a personal tragedy. What is, for example, touching история about how the "father" appeared to him in the form of a small bird that flew into the chapel and began to flit over his head. “I immediately felt that this was Chavez’s soul, and when the bird started to sing, I whistled to her in response,” Maduro said. “I realized that I had received the blessing of Comandante and can now defeat the enemies of the Bolivarian revolution.”
Given the popularity in Latin America of the so-called liberation theology, whose supporters criticize the “unjust capitalist society,” Chavez could well claim to be the prophet (Christian socialism in particular generated a powerful “red wave” in Latin America). It is no coincidence that Maduro proclaimed his predecessor "the second Jesus, who gave his life for each of us." He even hinted that the election of a Latin American dad was possible only thanks to Chavez. "We know that Comandante is next to God," said Maduro. - It is obvious that he put in a word for the Argentine cardinal and the Lord agreed: “The time has come for South America.”
In general, the candidate of the ruling party did everything to support the cult of Chávez and thus gain significant electoral advantages. Across the country were posters with the slogan: "The voice for Maduro is the voice for Chavez." The journalists quoted the phrase from the last public appearance of the Comandante: “I hope with all my heart that you will elect Nicholas Maduro. My opinion on this is final, my aspirations are as clear as the full moon. ”
Bolivar can not take two
However, oddly enough, even with such a trump card in his hands as support for Chavez, Maduro literally scratched the victory out of the hands of an opposition candidate. Apparently, those critics who called him a “pale shadow” or “pathetic copy” of the commandant were right. “Bolivar cannot bear the two,” the wits proclaimed, “and Chavez’s successor, who lacks stars from the skies, is unlikely to seize the banner of the Bolivarian revolution from him.” For Maduro's reputation, it would probably be better if the team leader nominated his candidacy for the presidency back in October last year and himself campaigned (according to Putin's model - Medvedev-2008: “choosing me for the vote for another”). He did not do this: a potential successor was appointed vice president and became political executor of Chávez.
Of course, during the election race, Maduro tried to prove that the left-wing radical project could exist without his main mastermind (“Chavez died, but his cause lives”). “We have lost an extraordinary leader,” he noted in an article published in The Guardian, “but this does not mean that the idea of“ socialism of the 21st century ”is buried. Indeed, many segments of the population are interested in its implementation: workers, farmers, women, Indians, people of African descent and youth. ” Maduro tried to imitate his mentor in everything: he portrayed a showman, playing the guitar and singing songs during election rallies, actively using populist slogans.
In one of his speeches, he solemnly promised to raise the minimum wage by 50% (and despite the fact that Venezuela is now facing serious economic difficulties: the inflation rate is overwhelming, the next devaluation of the bolivar hit the pocket of consumers, the treasury is empty). Quite in the spirit of Chávez, there were also statements by Maduro about the disclosure of the conspiracy of American diplomats and the Salvadoran right, who allegedly hired killers to get rid of the heir to the commander. The diplomats were expelled, the alleged mercenaries were arrested, and in the chavistically-minded part of society, fear of external threat was again imposed.
There is no doubt that Maduro had a powerful administrative resource. The chairman of the state-owned oil company, Rafael Ramirez, for example, was responsible for voter mobilization, and Defense Minister Admiral Diego Molero called on the army "not to give in and do everything so that Chavez's son won the victory." Chavista occupy more than half of the governor’s posts, have a majority in parliament and control the national media. And the candidate of the ruling party was supposed to deliver a crushing blow to his opponent.
Especially since Maduro has always been the idol of the poor. The fate of the former city bus driver, who was at the height of power, became for them the embodiment of the Venezuelan dream. And although representatives of the opposition claimed that the driver was not able to cope with presidential duties, Maduro himself noted that he was not ashamed of his former profession and even “was proud that he had not been nursed since childhood in a golden crib”. “Who would have thought,” writes columnist The Independent, “a simple hard worker who received the blessing of the commandant, nearly lost the election to the boy majors whom the hawks called“ capricious Capriles ”and“ decadent prince of the parasitic bourgeoisie ”.
“In the elections, even residents of the ranches and poor districts of Caracas voted for Capriles,” said University expert Simon Bolivar Angel Oropesa. - This refuted the myth that all the poor support the Chavista. Once they, of course, saw in them "their boyfriends", however now the disappointment has come. As they say, the ideals of the Bolivarian revolution will not be full. ” The governor of the province of Miranda Capriles, or don Enrique, as his local media calls him, comes from a Polish-Jewish family of financiers and is considered to be a protege of big business and the “creative class”. During the campaign, he tried to convince voters that the Bolivarian revolution turned out for the country to increase bureaucracy and deficit, called for “to overthrow the government of liars and criminals” (something like the mantra of the anti-Putin opposition about crooks and thieves).
A graduate of Columbia University in New York, Capriles has always admired the United States; he planned to end anti-American rhetoric and abandon an alliance with “rogue states” like Cuba, Iran and Belarus. “Why,” he asked during the campaign, “should Cuba get Venezuelan oil at a symbolic price?” Maduro’s campaign headquarters accused Capriles of signing a secret pact with the Americans, promising them to carry out liberal economic reforms in case of victory. True, in his own words, the leader of the opposition focuses on the Brazilian economic model, which allows to raise the level of welfare of the population through public investment and the development of private entrepreneurship. Many political scientists call Capriles a right-wing politician, but he is more likely a Social Christian (his coalition includes Social Democrats, Catholics, and even leftists).
Tellingly, during the election campaign, Capriles repeatedly emphasized the importance of Chavism for the political life of the country and promised not to abandon the legacy of the Comandante. “Chavez was our rival, but he was never an enemy,” he proclaimed. “The time has come to develop a national consensus, because all Venezuelans are the children of Bolivar.” The radical oppositionists, of course, took this rhetoric with hostility, but it was she who allowed Capriles to win over to her side a part of the electorate that traditionally voted for the ruling party.
True, Capriles considers it necessary to make a reservation: "Maduro with his bird brains is not Chavez at all, and the opposition does not want to have a dialogue with him." It turns out that the country is split in two, and to overcome this split is almost impossible. When they were one step away from the cherished presidency, the opposition felt its own strength and is unlikely to wait for the next election. Experts write the following scenario: about a year later, when Maduro finally loses popularity, the team of Capriles organizes a popular referendum on the question of confidence in the current president (the opposition tried to turn this scam in 2004 year). If the majority of the population opposes Chavez’s successor, Don Enrique will ride into the Venezuelan presidential palace on a white horse.
Supporter of the cuban model
However, while the head of state is Nicolas Maduro. “He belongs to the generation of Latin American politicians and rebel-type workers like metallurgist Lula da Silva or the head of the union of coca producers Evo Morales,” writes The Economist. “The pink wave that rose on the continent at the end of the 1990's brought them to the pinnacle of power.” The current president of Venezuela was one of Chavez’s closest associates. In 1992, when Comandante was imprisoned for a failed military coup, Maduro played a key role in his release (it was then that he met his future wife, Silia Flores, who was Chávez’s lawyer). Then they together created the movement for the Fifth Republic: and although Chavez nicknamed Maduro a “green youth”, he infinitely trusted him. In the 1998 year after the victory of the Comandante in the presidential election, his protege becomes a deputy of the Constituent Assembly and takes an active part in the development of a new “chavistic” constitution. In 2005, Maduro was elected Speaker of the Parliament, and two years later he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. He is called an excellent performer, but is he able to make decisions on key issues of foreign and domestic policy?
During the election campaign, famous Venezuelan political analyst Nickmer Evans, who was always considered a supporter of Chávez, wrote an open letter to Maduro, in which he urged him to pay attention to issues such as the role of the private sector in economic development and the formation of a “welfare state”. And although the newly-made leader of Venezuela ignored this message, it is not a secret to anyone that he is one of the most vehement defenders of the Cuban socialist model. “Yes, in order to incorporate into the living stream of the Bolivarian revolution, Maduro had to abandon the orthodox left-wing views,” writes the Spanish newspaper El Pais, “but in the depths of his soul he always remained an orthodox Marxist and leftist.”
Maduro is the second generation trade union leader. His father was one of the founders of the Democratic Action Party, which in 1952, organized a strike for oil industry workers. In 1968, Maduro's parents actively participated in rallies of the People’s Elective Movement, speaking in support of the leftist politician Luis Figueroa’s candidature for the presidential election (at one of these rallies, his father put a five-year-old Maduro on a car, gave him a microphone "Speech).
"Class War" Maduro
In his student years, Maduro was very close to such a radical leftist politician as Douglas Bravo, the creator of the Party of the Venezuelan Revolution and the Armed Forces of National Liberation. (It should be noted that during the reign of Chávez, Bravo led the so-called Third Road Movement, which criticized the government from the left, accusing it of depending on transnational energy corporations.) It is not surprising that Maduro in Caracas is considered a politician who adheres to far more left-wing views, than the late comandante. It causes allergies to representatives of the Federation of Businessmen of Venezuela Fedecamaras. Many people take his arguments about “class war” and “parasitism of the bourgeoisie” seriously. According to the author of the book “Latin American Left Radicals in Power,” Steve Ellner, “in the days of Chávez, 70% of the economy was in private hands, the tax ceiling was 34% and by and large businessmen were satisfied with their position. However, Maduro, who primarily focuses on Cuban comrades, can pull their nerves. ”
The name of the new president is associated with such radical reforms as the introduction of a six-hour working day. And few people doubt that he will continue social transformations, even if this happens at the expense of the country's economy. Maduro, for example, is one of the main supporters of the grocery store subsidy program, which helps reduce food prices. “We will continue to invest oil revenues in the creation of free medicine and education,” he writes in The Guardian, “despite the bourgeoisie’s desire to privatize these sectors. We have created the most egalitarian society in Latin America and will not give up our achievements. ” Indeed, during the reign of Chávez, the level of poverty in Venezuela fell from 70 to 20%, and the so-called Gini coefficient, which determines the difference in income, last year amounted to just 0,39 points.
However, if Maduro, as a representative of the left wing of the chavist party, decides to inflate the pace of social reforms, this can lead to serious contradictions within the ruling elite. According to experts, moderate socialists and the military are suspicious of the successor of Chávez. Many of them had hoped that Comandante would appoint Speaker Diosdado Cabello as his heir. An army ally and personal friend of Chávez, who, after the coup of 2002, achieved his triumphant return to power, Cabello is very popular among officers. This politician has become famous for his critical attitude towards social projects to the Comandante, and it will be very difficult for him to find a common language with Maduro. Moreover, the entourage of the new president insists on the further nationalization of enterprises, and this may directly affect the interests of high-ranking military. In general, according to political analysts, Maduro runs the risk of playing and losing the support of the army, which has maintained loyalty to the ruling regime for 15 years.
On the other hand, the new president seems to have the unconditional support of the Indians, who in recent years have been experiencing a kind of passionary explosion. It is no coincidence that, speaking to voters in the Amazon Delta, Maduro recalled how in the 16th century the Spaniards slaughtered local tribes in the battle of Marakapan and brought upon themselves a curse of leaders. The heir to Chavez promised that this ancient curse will fall on the heads of those Venezuelans who vote for "the conquistador Capriles." It is said that at the end of the last century, landowners and herders in Venezuela hunted Indians as wild animals, and only with the coming to power of the Comandante did the indigenous people claim their rights. In the country began the "Indian Renaissance" and Maduro, according to political analysts, is extremely interested in the fact that it continued.
From utopias to pragmatism?
Now for foreign policy. There is no doubt that Maduro will retain tough anti-American rhetoric. Even as foreign minister, he called the US administration a “gathering of racists and fascists,” and in talks with a Washington politician he remembered a “criminal past,” and when the Organization of American States summit discussed the issue of overthrowing Chavez’s ally, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, he screamed about the hypocrisy of the gringo empire.
However, Maduro sorely lacks the charisma that his predecessor had in abundance. And, according to experts, sooner or later he will be forced to reduce the intensity of the confrontation with the United States. Back in 2009, Barack Obama “extended a hand” to the leaders of the ALBA bloc, realizing that without this, Washington would not be able to regain its influence in the Western Hemisphere. Chavez initially responded and even stated that hope is now in New York. But after the Libyan operation, as a result of which his “close friend” was overthrown - Colonel Gaddafi, the Venezuelan caudillo again fell upon the “heartless Yankees”. “I am not Obama's enemy,” he said in an interview with the BBC, “but in its policy, Washington is again guided by imperialistic interests, and those who do not see this behave like ostriches.”
It was obvious that the American administration would not build bridges with Comandante. And because many in the United States took his death with relief. “Hugo Chavez was a tyrant who made the people of Venezuela live in fear,” said Republican Ed Royce, head of the international committee of the House of Representatives. - His death is a blow to the anti-American alliance of leftist leaders. Well, good riddance! Now relations between the United States and Venezuela can be improved. ” And even after Maduro was elected, Washington analysts do not lose hope for a rapprochement with Caracas. Do not forget that in economic terms, Venezuela is completely dependent on the "North American Empire" (70% of Venezuelan oil is supplied to the United States).
According to a political scientist from the University of Georgia, Jennifer McCoy, who actively participated in the dialogue between the Venezuelan government and the opposition after the unsuccessful 2002 coup of the year, “Maduro is a skillful diplomat who is easy to communicate with, and the United States should not pay attention to the harsh rhetoric that designed only for the internal audience. " “Yes, Maduro insisted on supporting Gaddafi and friendship with rogue states, but, on the other hand, he made very pragmatic and well-considered decisions,” Javier Corrales, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, echoed. - So, for example, it was Maduro who negotiated with Colombia to restore relations and resolve the conflict with FARC. Unlike the impulsive Chavez, this politician, it seems, will be ready for compromises. ” “Most likely, he will retain the outer shell of the“ Bolivarian revolution ”, gradually eroding content: in public he will portray an implacable fighter, but in closed negotiations with American diplomats he will begin to lose ground,” summarizes Michael Schifter, an expert of the Council on International Relations.
Maduro is considered one of the founders of the ALBA and Unasur blocks, he glorifies the “Latin American Renaissance” and is unlikely to turn off the path charted by Chavez. However, most experts are convinced that during his rule, Venezuela will lose its leading role in the integration processes on the continent. Indeed, the exclusive position of Caracas, above all, was associated with the charisma of Chávez, and not with the economic model of the Bolivarian Republic, which was based on the redistribution of income derived from the extraction of raw materials.
Economic turmoil is likely to force Maduro to abandon so-called oil diplomacy. Chavez, as you know, provided assistance to neighboring states, without demanding anything in return, as the Soviet Union once did. With the exception of, it should be noted, Cuba, from which Venezuela received and also receives free services in the field of education and especially health care, which is an essential part of the social programs of Chávez.
If we talk about relations with Russia, they will probably also change under Maduro. A political rapprochement, the apotheosis of which was recognition by Caracas of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, will be replaced by a pragmatic dialogue. Moscow will lose its exclusive status and become one of the partners that will fight for access to the Venezuelan market on a common basis. Of course, no one will revise the contracts in the field of oil production and refining concluded in the Chavez era, contracts for the sale of Russian weapons will continue to apply. However, so frankly to seek the patronage of Moscow, as Chavez did, Maduro, apparently, does not want. According to The Eсonomist, “a former bus driver simply doesn’t know how to move pieces on a“ great chessboard. ”