Even In Death, Chavez Dominates Venezuelan Election | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Even In Death, Chavez Dominates Venezuelan Election

Play associated audio

In Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro — the president of a powerful government — should be at center stage. But as he runs in Sunday's snap presidential elections, it's his larger-than-life predecessor who is getting much of the attention.

The death of Hugo Chavez, who taunted the U.S. and empowered the poor, is triggering the special vote. And Maduro is using Chavez's voice and image to ensure that the late president's socialist system remains in power for many more years to come.

Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver and Chavez confidant, became interim president last month, after Chavez, who transformed this country in 14 years of rule, died following a long battle with cancer.

The sympathy vote has given Maduro a huge advantage over opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, and most polls show the interim president with a big lead.

But Maduro is taking no chances — and that means using the Chavez card.

A Little Birdie Told Me So

On state television, Maduro explained how the late president came to him from the grave in the form of a songbird.

"All of a sudden, a little bird circled three times around me, stopped on a wooden beam, and began to sing a pretty song," Madura said.

"Then I, too, began to whistle," he said, whistling like a bird as he talked. "The little bird looked at me in a strange way. He sang, circled me once and flew away. And I felt his spirit. I felt him giving us a blessing, saying now the battle begins, go to victory."

Some in Venezuela ridiculed the story as crass politicking.

Among many of Chavez's followers, though, the story had an impact.

Daniela Paz is a 33-year-old street vendor who says Chavez was like a father figure to Venezuelans.

"No, I didn't think it was funny. There are people who took this like a joke, but I didn't see anything funny," she says about the notion of Chavez coming to Maduro in the form of a bird.

What's perfectly clear, she says, is that Chavez wanted Maduro to lead the country.

"Since we love Chavez, we do what he tells us to do," Paz says. "Onward with El Comandante and Maduro!"

Vote For Continuing Chavez's Socialism

Maduro is imposing, wears a bushy mustache and is not a seasoned campaigner — in other words, on the stump, he's very different from Chavez, who forged a near-religious bond with followers.

But Maduro tries hard to be the populist. There are warnings of American destabilization plans, and a message extolling Venezuela's self-styled revolution.

"We have to guarantee this country continue its path to dignity, to sovereignty, a country that's anti-imperialist, that in its anti-imperialism reaffirms its permanent independence," Maduro said.

He also asks the crowds who they want in the Miraflores presidential palace: the son of Chavez — that's him — or the oligarchy.

"I'm the guarantor of peace, of stability, of the continuation of Hugo Chavez's work, of his missions," he said.

Mariela Duran, who is 36 and came to Caracas from miles away for a Maduro rally, says she is sold on Maduro.

To her, he means the continuation of Chavez — and to her, Chavez made Venezuela a better country.

Polls show people like Duran are likely to give Maduro a six-year term — and hand defeat to Capriles, who proposes ending what Chavez called 21st-century socialism.

"It wasn't just because he told us to vote for him. It's also because we want a country ... where all the resources are ours, belong to us, that they belong to our children," Duran says. "And we don't want the opposition to return."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Little House,' Big Demand: Never Underestimate Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wilder's memoir reveals that she witnessed more violence than you'd ever know from her children's books. The South Dakota State Historical Society can barely keep up with demand for the autobiography.
NPR

Live, From Iceland: It's A Hamburger

They call it "The last McDonald's hamburger in Iceland." Purchased more than five years ago, it has been displayed in the Na­tional Museum of Iceland. Now it has its own webcam.
WAMU 88.5

MoCo Schools Superintendent Could Be Let Go This Year

The county board of education is unlikely to renew Starr's contract, which is up in June, according to the Washington Post.
NPR

'Maker Space' Allows Kids To Innovate, Learn In The Hospital

At a children's hospital in Nashville, Tenn., a mobile maker space allows patients to share materials and tools to build new things, while also teaching them about math and science.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.