WBEZ | Nicolas Maduro http://www.wbez.org/tags/nicolas-maduro Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Venezuela's incredibly sad elections http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-04/venezuelas-incredibly-sad-elections-106636 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7208_AP13040406993-scr_0.jpg" title="This is likely Henrique Capriles' last shot at being president of Venezuela (AP)" />Henrique Capriles&rsquo; suicide mission will likely come to an end Sunday, when Venezuelans go to the polls and elect Nicolás Maduro, Hugo Chávez&rsquo;s handpicked successor, in a nasty, rigged campaign. If Capriles should somehow win -- an improbability by almost any measure -- it is, frankly, unlikely the Maduro forces don&rsquo;t have a Plan B to hold on to power, such as an appeal to the Venezuelan Supreme Court -- handpicked by Chávez and a vital player in these last few months in the drama of Chávez&rsquo;s death, Maduro&rsquo;s presidential succession and the laying out of the campaign frame work.<br /><br />The brief 30-day campaign has favored Maduro not simply because of his association with Chávez and because Chávez&rsquo;s last public words were an endorsement of him as heir -- though this alone is a mighty reason for many Venezuelans to support him.<br /><br />Maduro&rsquo;s incumbency, however controversial, has&nbsp; meant the full weight and credit of the Venezuelan government media machine going all out, blacking out Capriles (who&rsquo;s been reduced to campaigning on one TV station and social media while Maduro campaigns on 7 channels whenever he wants and travels on the government&#39;s dime) and constant attacks of the dirtiest kind. So far, Maduro has strongly implied Capriles is gay and outright called him an &ldquo;heir to Hitler,&rdquo; a particularly ironic and stinging barb considering Capriles&rsquo; grandparents were Holocaust survivors. On the final day, Maduro warned that anyone who didn&#39;t vote for him would awaken a 100 year-old curse.<br /><br />If anything makes the probable defeat of Capriles particularly sad is that his style of campaigning -- trying desperately to combat the irrational insults with reason, trying desperately to remain above the fray and maintain a respectful and dignified stance -- will be deemed futile and Maduro&rsquo;s mocking no-holds barred denigrating will be declared effective. The campaign has been grueling, depressing, a hate fest.<br /><br />Sadder perhaps is that Capriles, the only candidate to unite the opposition, will likely end his presidential ambitions with this campaign. At 40, he&rsquo;s certainly young enough to try again, but he may have spent all his electoral currency in these last two elections (he came within 8 points of Chávez in October, the closest anyone had ever gotten). After this, the next presidential elections are in 2019.<br /><br />Saddest of all is that Maduro winning won&rsquo;t modernize the Venezuelan economy, which -- no matter what anyone thinks of the Bolivarian Revolution -- is sputtering (the national currency recently suffered a 32 percent devaluation and inflation is at 26 percent). Nor will Maduro, whose campaign made attacking the U.S. an integral theme, move to open up the economy or to invite in outside investors. (especially the many Venezuelans who&rsquo;ve taken their investments out of the country).</p><p>Venezuela&rsquo;s annual oil production has declined by 25 percent since 1999, when Chávez took office, and oil exports have dropped by nearly a half in that time. Consider what that means to a country that <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/09/world/americas/venezuelas-role-as-oil-power-diminished.html?_r=0">depends on oil</a> for 95 percent of its exports and 45 percent of its revenues. Consider too that Venezuela depends on the U.S., its sworn enemy, to buy as much as 40 percent of its oil, in cash, in order to stay afloat.</p><p>Nor will Maduro make the kinds of structural changes countries such as <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/01/world/americas/01peru.html?_r=0">Brazil, Mexico and Peru</a> have made with an eye toward the long-term. Venezuela&#39;s <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324000704578386771059515346.html">budget deficit</a> reached 12 percent last year, an astounding figure considering its riches. In fact, though Venezuela has one of the largest crude reserves in the world, it still needs to import gasoline (which it sells at a subsidized price of about a nickel a gallon). Does that make sense to anyone?<br /><br />But Maduro, whose primary goal seems to be to hold on to power, will continue to depend on oil exports to pay for the more than 70 percent of consumer goods Venezuela imports. In other words, Maduro will continue on the road to making Venezuela a one-trick pony with its oil monies, depending entirely on the price and power of oil to pay, first and foremost, for the ever growing domestic subsidies that Venezuela has taken on in the last 14 years.<br /><br />But his first task -- or that of Capriles, on the very off chance he wins and gets to keep the win -- will be to reconcile the country, now dramatically and bitterly divided. There is a tidal wave of resentment waiting to hit no matter who wins. And there is an economic deluge coming, no matter who the president turns out to be.<br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Sun, 14 Apr 2013 05:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-04/venezuelas-incredibly-sad-elections-106636 After Chavez: The constitution, the VP, and the elections http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-03/after-chavez-constitution-vp-and-elections-105965 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7110_AP061017028590-scr.jpg" style="height: 209px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="The late President Hugo Chávez and the now Acting President Nicolás Maduro confer under a portrait of Latin American hero Simón Bolivar. (AP/File)" />The last time Hugo Chávez <a href="http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2012/12/31/actualidad/1356959661_172483.html">appeared</a> on Venezuelan TV was December 8, when he gave explicit instructions.</div><p>&quot;If something should happen that I might be incapacitated in any way, I want Nicolás Maduro to finish my term, as the constitution dictates, but also -- and it&rsquo;s my firm opinion, as clear as a full moon, irrevocable, absolute, total -- that if you&rsquo;re obliged to hold new presidential elections, you should elect Nicolás Maduro as president,&rdquo; he said, holding a copy of the constitution. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m asking this with all my heart.&rdquo;</p><p>Two days later, Chávez boarded a plane to Havana and was never seen or heard from in public again. He was never even sworn in to his new presidential term, thanks to a ruling from the Venezuelan Supreme Court that said the new term was, essentially, a &quot;continuation&rdquo; of the old term. And though power was never officially transferred from Chávez, Maduro became the face of the government, the de facto president.</p><p>It was no surprise then that the news of Chávez&rsquo;s death last Tuesday was delivered by a somber and clearly emotional Maduro, who also said there would be elections in 30 days.</p><p>Since then, it&rsquo;s been almost a given that Maduro will be the standard bearer for Chávez&rsquo;s party. He will very likely face Henrique Capriles, who came within 11 points of Chávez last fall as the opposition candidate (Capriles, though having come closer to unseating Chávez than any previous opponent, will likely enter this election weaker, as much from the wave of sympathy carrying Maduro as from the opposition&rsquo;s internal divisions).</p><p>But here&rsquo;s the thing: there&rsquo;s a real question about whether Maduro should be interim president, and about his candidacy should he choose to run for president.</p><p>The 1999 Venezuelan Constitution&rsquo;s Article 233 (in its original Spanish below) says this: &quot;When there&rsquo;s an absolute absence of the President or President-elect before the inauguration, a new election -- universal, direct, and by secret ballot -- shall take place within 30 days. During the time of the election and up to the inauguration of the new President, the Presidency of the Republic shall be held by the President of the National Assembly.&rdquo;</p><p>The constitution provides for the ascendancy of the VP only after the president has been inaugurated.</p><p>In other words, because Chávez was never technically sworn in, it would not be Maduro the VP (and Foreign Minister) but Diosdado Cabello, the President of the National Assembly, who should be acting president. (Much was made by some of Cabello&rsquo;s absence from the news conference announcing Chávez&rsquo;s passing, but <a href="http://www.correodelorinoco.gob.ve/nacionales/fallecio-madre-diosdado-cabello/">Cabello&rsquo;s own mother</a> had died Sunday, just two days before, and he was with family.)</p><p>Yesterday, Cabello announced a special Friday session of the National Assembly to swear in Maduro as the nation&rsquo;s acting president and to call for elections within 30 days.</p><p>&quot;President Chávez was in full control of the (presidency),&rdquo; Cabello told Venezuelan TV, insisting, as everyone on Chávez&rsquo;s team has for the past few months, that he, as President of the National Assembly, <a href="http://laiguana.tv/noticias/2013/03/07/4257/DIOSDADO-ANUNCIA-QUE-ESTE-VIERNES-SE-JURAMENTARA-NICOLAS-MADURO-COMO-PRESIDENTE-ENCARGADO.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&amp;utm_medium=twitter">didn&rsquo;t need to assume the presidency temporarily </a>because there was no &ldquo;absolute absence,&rdquo; as the constitution calls for. &ldquo;An absolute absence was never decreed. What the constitution calls for is that when there&rsquo;s an incident such as this (death) within the first four years of a presidential term, the vice president of the Republic will assume the responsibility (of the presidency). And that&rsquo;s what we&rsquo;re going to do. That&rsquo;s what the constitution says. We&rsquo;re going to comply with President Chávez&rsquo;s orders.&rdquo;</p><p>Whether Chávez was actually in control up to the last minute is irrelevant at this point. But let&rsquo;s say that, seeing that Chávez was already in power, not waiting to be sworn in, that a valid argument can be made for Maduro, as VP, to step in.</p><p>That leads us to another problem, Article 229 of the constitution (also in Spanish below): &quot;Whomever is serving as Executive Vice President (Maduro&rsquo;s actual title), Minister, Governor or Mayor on the day of the announcement of his or her candidacy, or at any moment between that date and the election, may not be elected President of the Republic.&rdquo;</p><p>After tomorrow, Maduro will not be VP but acting president. Yet becoming acting president is the privilege of the vice president or the president of the National Assembly. In order words, his new status as acting president -- which would likely legalize his candidacy -- is conditioned on his immediately prior status as VP -- which would make him illegible.</p><p>As the legal drama continued to unfold yesterday, Maduro had one other announcement: Chávez&rsquo;s body will lie in state for seven days and then be embalmed for permanent display.</p><p>&quot;The body of our leader will be embalmed, and it will ... be surrounded by crystal glass forever, <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/07/world/americas/venezuela-chavez/index.html">present forever</a>, and always with his people,&quot; he said.<br /><br />***</p><p><br /><em>Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela de 1999</em></p><p><u>Artículo 233</u>. Serán faltas absolutas del Presidente o Presidenta de la República: la muerte, su renuncia, la destitución decretada por sentencia del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, la incapacidad física o mental permanente certificada por una junta médica designada por el Tribunal Supremo de Justicia y con aprobación de la Asamblea Nacional, el abandono del cargo, declarado éste por la Asamblea Nacional, así como la revocatoria popular de su mandato.</p><p>Cuando se produzca la falta absoluta del Presidente electo o Presidenta electa antes de tomar posessión, se procederá a una nueva elección universal, directa y secreto dentro de los treinta días consecutivos siguientes. Mientras se elige y toma posesión el nuevo Presidente o Presidenta, se encargará de la Presidencia de la República el Presidente o Presidenta de la Asamblea Nacional.</p><p>Cuando se produzca la falta absoluta del Presidente o Presidenta de la República durante los primeros cuatro años del período constitucional, se procederá a una nueva elección universal y directa dentro de los treinta días consecutivos siguientes. Mientras se elige y toma posesión el nuevo Presidente o Presidenta, se encargará de la Presidencia de la República el Vicepresidente Ejecutivo o Vicepresidenta Ejecutiva.<br /><br /><u>Artículo 229</u>. No podrá ser elegido Presidente o elegida Presidenta de la República quien esté de ejercicio del cargo de Vicepresidente Ejecutivo o Vicepresidenta Ejecutiva, Ministro o Ministra, Gobernador o Gobernadora y Alcalde o Alcaldesa, en el día de su postulación o en cualquier momento entre esta fecha y la de la elección.</p><p><u><strong><em>UPDATE:&nbsp;&nbsp; </em></strong></u><br />&nbsp;</p><p>The <a href="http://www.tsj.gov.ve/decisiones/scon/Marzo/141-8313-2013-13-0196.html">Venezuelan Supreme Court</a> delivered an opinion Friday, March 8, before Maduro&#39;s swearing in as president later that night, that confirmed his promotion to Acting President and specifically exempted him from having to resign the office while a candidate for president. This means that Maduro will have all of the advantages of incumbency, including government-owned and government-controlled media (which has so far broadcast very little about the opposition) leading up to the Aprl 14 elections.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 07 Mar 2013 05:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-03/after-chavez-constitution-vp-and-elections-105965 Chávez dies, VP accuses US of poisoning http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-03/ch%C3%A1vez-dies-vp-accuses-us-poisoning-105932 <p><p>Amidst the news of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/06/world/americas/hugo-chavez-venezuelas-polarizing-leader-dies-at-58.html?pagewanted=1&amp;_r=1&amp;smid=tw-share&amp;">Hugo Chávez&rsquo;s death</a> yesterday, his vice president Nicolás Maduro also announced that he&rsquo;d <a href="http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2013/03/05/venezuela-expels-us-diplomat-vice-president-claims-hugo-chavez-was-poisoned/#ixzz2Mhrzxb00">expelled two American diplomats</a> from Venezuela for plotting against the government. Maduro also said that Chávez had been poisoned.</p><p>&quot;We have no doubt that Commandant Chávez was attacked with this illness, we have no doubt whatsoever,&rdquo; Maduro said. &ldquo;The established enemies of our land specifically tried to damage our leader&rsquo;s health. We already have leads, which will be further explored with a scientific investigation.&rdquo;</p><p>Where did Maduro get this idea? Well, from Chávez himself. Back in December 2011, he gave a speech shortly after he&rsquo;d been diagnosed with cancer and heard that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the president of Argentina, also had cancer, in which he proposed the possibility that the U.S. had targeted progressive Latin American leaders through some kind of cancer-inducing chemical warfare.<br /><br />The video above has the speech. Below, my translation.</p><p>&quot;It&rsquo;s very difficult to explain at this point ... based on the law of probabilities ... what&rsquo;s been happening to some of us in Latin America. At the very least, it&rsquo;s strange. Very, very strange. I don&rsquo;t want to make reckless accusations, no. But, just recently, I was watching TeleSur and saw our friend, the Guatelaman President Alvaro Colón handing the presidency over to General Otto Pérez. He was elected president just recently, in January. A general in the Guatemalan army whom I met back in the 80s, when I was in Guatemala for a few months for a course on civic matters and political warfare. Alvaro Colón was at this event asking for forgiveness for the Guatemalan government, and asking the United States to accept responsibility now that it had been proven, fifty, forty years after the fact, it was proven -- it&rsquo;s been proven -- that the government of the United States, the CIA and I don&rsquo;t know how many other entities, had launched a biological, chemical and radiological operation in Guatemala and contaminated countless Guatemalans with countless diseases. Among these, venereal diseases. All so they could perform some tests. That&rsquo;s the United States right there. Would it be strange if they had developed a technology to induce cancer that nobody knows about now but which will be discovered in fifty or however many years? I don&rsquo;t know. I&rsquo;m just sharing my thoughts. But this is very, very, very strange that we should all get cancer: (Paraguayan president Fernando) Lugo, Dilma (Rousseff, president of Brazil), back when she was a candidate. Thank god, Lugo recovered from cancer and just look at him, leading battles in Paraguay and, yes, all over Latin America. And Dilma, well, thank god she too survived it. But that cancer put her presidential candidacy at risk. (Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio) Lula (da Silva) couldn&rsquo;t be re-elected. Then there&rsquo;s me, bam, coming into an election year. And then a few days later, Lula. And now, Cristina. Well, it is a little hard to explain, isn&rsquo;t it, to try to reason through it, even if you apply the law of probabilities. Fidel (Castro, former president of Cuba) always told me: &lsquo;Chávez, be careful. Chávez, be careful, because you&rsquo;re always all over everybody. Look, be careful. These people have developed all sorts of technology. You&rsquo;re too careless. Watch what you eat, be careful with what you&rsquo;re given to eat. Be careful with what have you -- a small needle can inject you with whatever.&rsquo; But, you&rsquo;re out there and you&rsquo;re in God&rsquo;s hands. In any case, I&rsquo;m not accusing anyone. I&rsquo;m merely using my right to reflect and to comment on these very strange events that are very difficult to explain. Be strong, Cristina. You&rsquo;ll live. We&rsquo;ll live. We will triumph for Latin America, for Latin America, for our people.&rdquo;</p></p> Wed, 06 Mar 2013 11:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-03/ch%C3%A1vez-dies-vp-accuses-us-poisoning-105932