John R. Thomson- There is no exaggerating Venezuela’s political and social turmoil as the country faces fresh presidential elections on April 14. With rampant rumor filling a near total information vacuum, unrest has grown among all Venezuelans — supporters and opponents of dictator-president Hugo Chavez — since he departed Dec. 10 on his terminal trip to Cuba.
Confusion has morphed into insecurity in the two weeks since his death was announced, owing largely to the shortcomings of acting President Nicolas Maduro.
Appointed vice president by Chavez shortly after October’s election, Maduro has been de facto president since his mentor, then possibly already deceased, failed to attend Jan. 10 inauguration ceremonies. Bumbling by Maduro and his government has been monumental — first, in their absurd efforts to hide Chavez’ condition, and later in allowing protocol blunders that reportedly caused the Argentine and Brazilian presidents to leave Caracas before the funeral.
Maduro’s acts in office are not limited to the stupid. He ignored the constitution twice in two weeks — first superseding National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello as acting president, then failing to hold presidential elections within 30 days of the office becoming vacant. He set them, inexplicably, for 40 days after the announcement instead. This would be less important except that multiple sources contend Chavez actually died Dec. 28, with no announcement for two months.
Despite rampant confusion, disgust and insecurity, one thing is clear: In order to elect Maduro against opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who garnered 45 percent of the vote against Chavez in October, the Chavistas will have to make far greater illegal efforts this time.
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