Nicolas Maduro replaced late president Hugo Chaves after national elections election in Venezuela held on April 14, 2013
by Skylar Brown
Venezuela’s former president, Hugo Chavez, died on March 5, 2013 and was replaced by his handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro, until an election could be held April 14, 2013. Maduro ran against opposition challenger Henrique Caprilles and won by narrow margin of about 300,000 votes.
Maduro held a double-digit lead over challenger Caprilles heading into the election but that lead fell in the days before the election, with one poll showing only a 7 percentage point difference between the candidates. Maduro was announced the victor by a margin of 50.8% to Caprilles 49.1%. This result was disputed by Caprilles who called for a recount. At first the National Election Council would not allow a recount of the vote, stating that Maduro was president elect, but recently they have approved an electronic audit of the votes cast.
Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver, vowed to follow and deepen Chavez’s “21st century socialism” if he won. “We’re going to elect Maduro president because he’s following the path set by Chavez,” Morelia Roa, a 58-year-old nurse, said. 40-year-old Caprilles on the other hand wants to take Venezuela down a more centrist path.
The election results will play a large role in Latin American and International politics, as the winner will take control of the world’ s largest oil reserves in an OPEC nation. He will also control economic aid provided by Chavez to left-leaning countries in Latin America such as Cuba and Bolivia.
The close election results caused many supporters of both candidates to take to the streets and protest the outcome. At least 8 people have been killed in post-election violence across the country, according to Venezuela’s state-run AVN news agency. Immediately after the election there were contrasting reactions by supporters of both candidates, with supporters of Caprilles banging pots and pans in protest and supporters of Maduro setting off fireworks in celebration.
Maduro said the opposition was staging a coup before he left for Lima, Peru on April 18, saying, “In Venezuela we do not have an opposition. … We have a conspiracy”. Caprilles told his supporters to not be discouraged by the inauguration of Maduro on April 19. “This fight has not finished. … I am sure that sooner rather than later the truth will come out,” said Caprilles.
The electronic audit will take 30 days to complete and the situation in Venezuela will likely remain unstable for months, if not years, because of the strong political divide in the country.