Meet the new Venezuelan leader, same as the old Venezuelan leader — well, at least in terms of the obsessive level of paranoid anti-Americanism he’s partial to peddling to Venezuelans as a trumped-up political distraction, but it sounds like Nicolas Maduro’s attitude isn’t getting quite the same effective reception as that of his predecessor Hugo Chavez. Apparently, there’s no shark not worth jumping for this guy, even as the opposition party continues to charge that the presidential election was a far cry from free and fair; but hey, with the legitimacy of his presidency under fire, why not present the whole thing as an American plot to undermine his authority, right? Nothing better than a hostile outside threat to really band people together, and there’s even a filmmaker in town on whom Maduro says he personally ordered an arrest, presumably to play the part of convenient scapegoat:

Venezuela brushed off criticism from President Barack Obama on Sunday and maintained its accusation that an American detainee in Caracas is a spy pretending to be a filmmaker.

During his visit to Latin America, Obama said on Saturday the allegations against Tim Tracy, 35, were “ridiculous.”

This came a day after Venezuela’s new socialist leader, Nicolas Maduro, labeled Obama “the grand chief of devils.”

Venezuelan Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres insisted that intelligence agents tracking Tracy since late 2012 had uncovered ample evidence he was plotting with militant anti-government factions to destabilize Venezuela with violence. …

Obama’s comments about Tracy, and others questioning socialist Maduro’s democratic credentials after last month’s disputed presidential vote, have infuriated the government and revived accusations of “imperialist meddling.”

Unfortunately for him, the flailing is all too transparent, at least to several interested outsiders, and I’m sure that the opposition party is sensing some possible vulnerability:

Peruvian Foreign Minister Rafael Roncagliolo called on the Union of South American Nations, of which his country is acting president, to issue a statement urging Maduro to exercise tolerance.

Former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe says he is taking Maduro to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights over “immature” accusations that Uribe plotted to assassinate Maduro. …

“The Tim Tracy case is a sad diversion in the midst of uncertainty, economic chaos and social upheaval,” Roett said.

Roett says Maduro’s Chávez-like language — in which he railed this weekend against “U.S. imperialism, the bourgeoisie and the far right” — shows he lacks an agenda for the country.

“Maduro does not seem to have many ideas of his own,” Roett said. “It is safer to parrot Chávez.

Maduro’s entire campaign pretty much revolved around being Chavez’s political reincarnation more than being a leader in his own right, which was likely one of the reasons the opposition party made such a huge and game-changing showing, and his leadership skills so far still seem to be sorely wanting. Maduro is definitely nervous right now.