by Nicolas Maduro, Interim President of Venezuela

Apr. 14, 2013 (TSR) – A month ago Venezuela lost a historic leader who spearheaded the transformation of his country, and spurred a wave of change throughout Latin America. In Sunday’s election Venezuelans will choose whether to pursue the revolution initiated under Hugo Chávez – or return to the past. I worked closely with President Chávez for many years, and am now running to succeed him. Polls indicate that most Venezuelans support our peaceful revolution.

Chávez’s legacy is so profound that opposition leaders, who vilified him only months ago, now insist they will defend his achievements. But Venezuelans remember how many of these same figures supported an ill-fated coup against Chávez in 2002 and sought to reverse policies that have dramatically reduced poverty and inequality.

To grasp the scale of what has been achieved, it’s necessary to recall the state of my country when Chávez took office in 1999. In the previous 20 years Venezuela had suffered one of the sharpest economic declines in the world. As a result of neoliberal policies that favoured transnational capital at the expense of people’s basic needs, poverty soared. A draconian market-oriented agenda was imposed through massive repression, including the 1989 massacre of thousands in what is known as the Caracazo.

This disastrous trend was reversed under Chávez. Once the government was able to assert effective control over the state oil company in 2003, we began investing oil revenue in social programmes that now provide free healthcare and education throughout the country. The economic situation vastly improved. Poverty and extreme poverty have been reduced dramatically. Today Venezuela has the lowest rate of income inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean.

As a result our government has won almost every election or referendum since 1998 – 16 in all – in a democratic process the former US president Jimmy Carter called “the best in the world“. If you haven’t heard much about these accomplishments, it may have something to do with the influence of Washington and its allies on the international media. They have been trying to de-legitimise and get rid of our government for more than a decade, ever since they supported the 2002 coup.

We have also worked to transform the region: to unite the countries of Latin America and work together to address the causes and symptoms of poverty. Venezuela was central to the creation of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), aimed at promoting social and economic development and political co-operation.

The media myth that our political project would fall apart without Chávez was a fundamental misreading of Venezuela’s revolution. Chávez has left a solid edifice, its foundation a broad, united movement that supports the process of transformation. We’ve lost our extraordinary leader, but his project – built collectively by workers, farmers, women, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, and the young – is more alive than ever.

The media often portray Venezuela as on the brink of economic collapse – but our economy is stronger than ever. We have a low debt burden and a significant trade surplus, and have accumulated close to $30bn in international reserves.

There are of course many challenges still to overcome, as Chávez himself acknowledged. Among my primary objectives is the need to intensify our efforts to curb crime and aggressively confront inefficiency and corruption in a nationwide campaign.

Internationally, we will continue to work with our neighbours to deepen regional integration and fight poverty and social injustice. It’s a vision now shared across the region, which is why my candidacy has received strong support from figures such as the former Brazilian president Lula da Silva and many Latin American social movements. We also remain committed to promoting regional peace and stability, and this is why we will continue our energetic support of the peace talks in Colombia.

Latin America today is experiencing a profound political and social renaissance – a second independence – after decades of surrendering its sovereignty and freedom to global powers and transnational interests. Under my presidency, Venezuela will continue supporting this regional transformation and building a new form of socialism for our times. With the support of progressive people from every continent, we’re confident Venezuela can give a new impetus to the struggle for a more equitable, just and peaceful world.


Nicolas Maduro is the interim President of Venezuela since 5 March 2013 following the death of Hugo Chávez.  A former bus driver, Maduro went on to become a trade union leader, before being elected to the National Assembly in 2000 and re-elected in 2005, when he became leader of parliament. He was appointed to a number of positions within the Venezuelan Government under Chávez, ultimately being made Foreign Minister in 2006 to 2012. He was named vice president by Chavez in October 2012. The partnership between Chavez and Maduro began when Maduro and his wife General Attorney Cilia Flores led a legal team to win Chavez’s freedom from involvement in a failed coup against then-president Carlos Andres Perez in 1992. He was described during this time as the “most capable administrator and politician of Chávez’s inner circle”. In December 2012, Maduro was declared Chavez’s successor in case the president could not carry out his duties as a result of cancer. Since then, Maduro led the Venezuelan government as Chavez was in Cuba for treatment. A special election is due to be held on 14 April to elect a new President, and Maduro was unanimously adopted as the candidate of the United Socialist Party. As Chavez’s hand-picked successor, Maduro is well ahead among the contenders for the presidency of the oil-rich South American country. Maduro has promised to continue Chavez’s “missions” that have led to vastly improved health, literacy, and general living standards among the majority of the poor and working classes. He also pledges to tackle Venezuela’s high inflation rate, insufficient food production and high crime rate. One of Maduro’s campaign slogans is: “Chavez sets the route, Maduro takes the wheel,” indicating that a vote for Maduro is a vote for continuing Chavez’s reformist legacy. The latest survey by Venezuelan pollster GIS 21 shows that Maduro has a 55.3 percent support rate, while his main rival Henrique Capriles has a support rate of 44.7 percent.

First published in The Guardian.


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