On Friday 18 April Nicolas Maduro was officially announced as Venezuela’s next president after the death of Hugo Chavez, who passed away in March from cancer. Maduro was sworn into power on Friday after a number of protests over the narrowly-contended election sprung up both within and outside of Venezuela.
From being a bus driver to foreign secretary under Chavez, Maduro was the former president’s first choice for a successor. He took leadership of the government in the weeks after Chavez’s death before the national election was held on the 15 April. Despite Chavez’s seeming popularity among the majority of the Venezuelan electorate, his chosen successor only won the general election by 50%. Many people living both within and outside of the country publicly mourned his death, and yet the vote for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles gained 49%.
Capriles and his supporters have refused to accept the result of the election, claiming that Maduro rigged it in order to retain power and called for a complete recount of the ballot. Maduro’s government compromised by announcing that there would be an audit.
Monday 15 April saw violent protests against Maduro’s victory by supporters of Capriles in the capital Caracas and some other cities. Reuters reports that the government claim that there were eight deaths, 61 injures and 135 arrests as a result of the protests. The government have said that most of the injured were not supporters of Capriles, with one report stating that opposition supporters tried to set fire to an injured policeman. Capriles himself has called for peaceful protests against Maduro’s government.
In an address made on the following day, Maduro stated that he believed the protests were part of an attempted coup against his government.
The majority of countries within Latin America have embraced Maduro’s victory, with countries such as Argentina and Brazil acknowledging his victory. Russia, Iran and Spain have also released statements over the past week recognising Maduro’s victory. UK foreign secretary William Hague issued a statement in support of Maduro’s presidency, stating:
“On the occasion of the inauguration of Nicolas Maduro as president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the UK government looks forward to working with the government and people of Venezuela to strengthen our relationship and deepen cooperation in areas of mutual interest. We are concerned by reports of violence following the elections and call on all sides to work together to reduce tensions and to prevent further incidents.”
The US will not officially recognise Maduro as president until the results of the audit are released.
Despite agreeing to hold the audit, opposition supporters within and outside of Venezuela are still expressing their anger over Maduro’s victory, with one protester breaching security and managing to snatch the microphone away from Maduro as he went to give his presidential speech.
Chavez seems to have become immortalised as a man who changed the fortunes of a country and toed a hard line toward the US that was celebrated by a large number of people and other Latin American nations.
Despite this, the popularity of Chavez’s own choice for successor already remains uncertain.