Foreign Policy Blogs

Venezuela Election Wrap-Up


DSC00764The new president will be puppeteered out of office quicker than he was put in 

The election played out as many opposition supporters of Henrique Capriles supporters feared.

Government candidate Nicolas Maduro won by a close margin — closer than expected actually. Capriles denounced the results, pointed out cases of fraud and intimidation and called on his supporters (approximately 50 percent of the population, even according to official results) to demand a vote recount of the National Electoral Commission (CNE).

More specifically, the Capriles campaign called for verification of the receipts that print out after a ballot is cast, also buying time for international votes, the vast majority of which were cast for him in the Oct. 7 election, to be counted.

This call to action galvanized his base, which had been disillusioned after his quick acceptance of defeat in October. Yet no one, not even Maduro’s own party, seems to think much of the new leader.

From start to finish, Maduro’s most ardent supporters aren’t his supporters at all. They are Chavez supporters. One of Chavez’ last recorded statements to the public asked voters to support Maduro in the event that something were to happen to him. This deathbed plea has translated into a certain power beyond the grave. Maduro’s most popular campaign slogan, was in fact, a solemn vow by voters: “Chavez, te juro, voto por Maduro” [Chavez, I swear, I am voting for Maduro].

Maduro has now been left with the ticking timebomb that is Venezuela: a worsening economy, a sharply declining oil production capacity, a horrific security situation (Caracas is widely considered the most violent city in the Western Hemisphere), and, to top it all off, his own party is increasingly fractionalized and fissured.

Within the official party it is widely known that Maduro is not in charge. Most speculate he’ll be asked to step down within the first two years. Venezuelans are exhausted and fed up with the worsening economic and security situations, but they’ve never had a set figure to blame it all on. Until now, the blame has been shifted to the advisors and people “around” Chavez because he was so well-loved.

The people don’t love Maduro. At the first sign of discontent, the people “around” Maduro — most likely Diosdado Cabello — will find a way to blame then remove him, with little trouble or fanfare.

Cabello has broad support in the military and is thought to be more astute than Maduro when it comes to political movements and manipulations. It was Cabello’s decision to reject a vote recount after Maduro had already agreed to one.

Maduro’s sad fate as a temporary placeholder was visible since the beginning of the campaign in early April. Some of Maduro’s campaign posters didn’t even have his face on them – they had Chavez.

The average Maduro supporter couldn’t, and still can’t, really articulate why Maduro had been anointed as the chosen one. Antonio Mendoza, a government architect explained:

“Chávez designo a esta persona, que seguimos. No estamos en posición de cuestionar, somos militantes… simplemente es la línea que nos dejó el presidente. El presidente vio en él … cualidades extraordinarias,” [Chavez, designated this person, whom we follow. We aren’t in a position to follow, we are militants… this is simply the line the president left us. The (former) president saw in him… extraordinary qualities].

With supporters like this, it won’t take long before Maduro becomes the scapegoat for the country’s various ills and he is unceremoniously dumped from office.  The only bets now are if it will be before he hits the two year mark, and if Diosdado Cabello will take the roll himself, or test it out on someone else first.





Marie Metz

Marie Metz is a Latin America Security Analyst based in Mexico City, Mexico with frequent travel throughout Latin America. She covered the 2012 and 2013 Venezuelan presidential elections from Caracas, and has lived in Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina. She holds an M.A. in International Security from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Miami.

You can follow her on Twitter: @gueritametz or read her individual blog: