After the longstanding dictatorial, socialist reign of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez finally came to end with his death earlier this year, his lieutenant quickly seized upon Chavez’s legacy and virtual sainthood to legitimize his own campaign to fill the dead strongman’s vacancy. His campaign was all Chavez, all the time, and he went to rhetorical extremes in an attempt to turn the popular dismay over Chavez’s death into enthusiasm for his obviously natural succession.
Evidently, he has no current plans for governing any differently, either. The Financial Times reports:
With the help of the omnipresent posters and slogans – “Chávez lives, the fight continues!” – the former president’s grip over politics and daily life in Venezuela appears to be as strong as ever.
The propaganda and imagery that buttressed the late paratrooper’s anti-capitalist crusade since he was first elected in 1998 serve a different purpose: assuring his immortality.
“Chávez is a source of legitimacy for [his successor, Nicolás Maduro. The revolution can continue with a Chávez that is dead, because for the people he is still very much present,” says Maryclen Stelling, a sociologist sympathetic to Chávez’s “Bolivarian revolution”. …
Mr Maduro built his popularity on Chávez’s legacy, which the socialist leader anointed him to continue. But he is in many ways hostage to it. Even dead, unofficial popularity polls give Chávez an advantage of almost 15 points over Mr Maduro. …
He campaigned on the basis that his predecessor spoke to him in the form of a little bird. Last week, he admitted that he regularly sleeps in the mausoleum where the comandante’s remains are kept for inspiration.
How… nice? And not at all creepy?
Maduro isn’t succeeding at peddling Chavismo even remotely as successfully or popularly as Chavez was; granted, he’s only been in office a few months, but governing and shoring up support based on a dead man’s cult of personality does not sound like a wise long-term political strategy to me. Unfortunately for the Venezuelan people, effective governance is something they very sorely need.
Also: Opposition leader Henrique Capriles’ quest to challenge the legitimacy of last spring’s election and demand a recount of the votes? It’s going about as well as you’d expect in a country where the rule of law and an impartial justice system mean precisely nothing.