Nicolás Maduro overcame intense opposition from Washington and rich Venezuelans to be re-elected, but he’s not out of the woods yet, as Roger D. Harris explains.
By Roger D. Harris
The Venezuelan people reelected Nicolás Maduro for a second presidential term on May 20, bucking a U.S.-backed political tide of reaction that had swept away previously left-leaning Latin American governments – often by extra-parliamentary means – in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Honduras, and even Ecuador.
The United States and the right-wing opposition in Venezuela had demanded an election boycott and Maduro’s resignation. Instead, a majority of Venezuelans defiantly voted for Maduro, affirming the legacy of Hugo Chávez.
Chávez was first elected in 1998 and died in office on March 5, 2013. He had spearheaded a movement that turned Venezuela from an epigone of Washington into an independent force opposing U.S. hegemony. The Bolivarian Revolution reclaimed Venezuela’s history and forged a new national identity that no longer looked to Miami for affirmation. Even some of the most anti-chavismo now take pride in being Venezuelan. Such has been the depth of the sea change in national consciousness.
Venezuelan society became more inclusive for the poor, especially women, people of color, and youth. Of the 300-odd mayoralties in Venezuela, over 100 mayors are under 30 years old. As historian Greg Grandin observed, this inclusiveness has awakened “a deep fear of the primal hatred, racism, and fury of the opposition, which for now is directed at the agents of Maduro’s state but really springs from Chávez’s expansion of the public sphere to include Venezuela’s poor.”
On a geopolitical level, the Bolivarian Revolution placed a renewed focus on opposing U.S. dominance. While some on the left have become confused about opposing imperialism, Washington has made regime change in Venezuela a priority.
Maduro inherited all this and more: a dysfunctional currency system, deeply engrained corruption, an entrenched criminal element, a petro-economy dependent on the international market, and the eternal enmity of Washington.