Inside Story Americas

What next for Venezuela?

As Nicolas Maduro wins election by smaller margin than expected, we look at the pressing issues facing the new leader.

Last Modified: 16 Apr 2013 11:23
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Following his election victory, Nicolas Maduro is expected to be sworn in as president of Venezuela later this week.

"I think that a couple of things happened, one of them is that the Maduro campaign basically ceded to the discourse, and the theme set by the opposition, which were basically crime and the economic issues, and so when it went to the enter that terrain of debate it of course was at a disadvantage ... Plus the memory and the sympathy of President Chavez, I think was fading quickly... so  all that put together resulted in this very narrow victory."

- Gregory Wilpert, Venezuela analyst

However, those expecting a repeat of the easy win Hugo Chavez enjoyed last October were left shocked after official results gave Maduro only a slender margin of victory.

In keeping with the tone of an often bitter election campaign, the loser, Henrique Capriles, called the win "illegitimate". He also demanded a full recount - something to which Maduro has agreed.

The security of Venezuela's election process has been well verified. Former US president, Jimmy Carter, once called it the "best in the world".

Nevertheless, the narrowness of Maduro's win - even once confirmed - will raise questions about his leadership.

Once he is officially sworn in, Maduro will have a number of serious issues to address in his country, and the closeness of the election result is perhaps a sign of how pressing these issues have become for Venezuelans.

While economically, the country has seen consistent growth, inflation has been a source of concern for the government. Housing has also been a problem, with a shortage of good quality affordable homes.

But the issue that often captures the most media attention is violent crime. At 73 murders per 100,000 people, Venezuela has one of the highest rates in the world.

"In all elections, there are winners and losers, the US had no problem in recognising a victory of Felipe Calderon in Mexico in 2006, with less that 0.2 percent of the vote … so I think it would be extremely foolish on the part of the opposition to try to create conditions of ungovernability, because really the victims will be the Venezuelans themselves." 

- Miguel Tinker Salas, professor of Latin American Studies 

During his campaign, Maduro promised to continue Chavez's Bolivarian revolution.

He promised to implement Chavez's 'Socialist Plan of the Nation 2013-2019', which aims to strengthen existing housing and healthcare initiatives, establish more communal councils and build more state factories.

The plan also aims to further erode the influence of large landowners through land redistribution. Maduro also promised to raise the minimum wage by between 38 and 45 percent.

So, how will Maduro's presidency impact on Hugo Chavez's Bolivarian revolution?

Will the opposition create conditions of ungovernability? And will Venezuela's main problems be addressed this time by the new government?

To discuss this Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Miguel Tinker Salas, the author of the book The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela; Gregory Wilpert, a founder and editor of Venezuela Analyst.com; and Alex Main, from the Centre for Economic and Policy Research who is working as an electoral observer in Venezuela.  

"It's an extraordinary voting process, because not only do you have the system of verification, where each electronic voting machine produces a paper receipt which is then duly put into a sealed box which can then be audited after the process. But  you have many audits throughout the voting process, I think something like 16 all together, which both the opposition and pro-government parties are involved in ... they are witness to all of those steps in the process, including the final counting process that take place here in Caracas."

- Alex Main - Centre for Economic and Policy Research


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