Venezuela's VP Maduro a "poor copy" of Chavez: opposition

Fri Dec 21, 2012 8:50pm EST
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By Andrew Cawthorne

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's opposition mocked President Hugo Chavez's chosen successor Nicolas Maduro on Friday as a "poor copy" of his boss who should be promoting national unity rather than insulting opponents during a delicate time for the South American nation.

In power since 1999, Chavez named vice president and foreign minister Maduro as his preferred replacement should he be incapacitated by the cancer he is battling in Cuba.

Since the December 11 operation, Maduro, 50, a former bus driver and union leader who shares Chavez's socialist politics, has been fronting day-to-day government in Venezuela while the president has been neither seen nor heard from in public.

Though lacking Chavez's booming charisma, Maduro has borrowed elements of his style - speaking regularly and lengthily on live TV, inaugurating public works, rallying supporters and attacking "bourgeois" opponents at every turn.

He even used one of Chavez's old catch phrases to gloat that Sunday's regional vote, where Chavez allies won 20 of 23 governorships, smashed the opposition into "cosmic dust."

The opposition Democratic Unity coalition reacted angrily.

"Vice President Nicolas Maduro has begun his temporary rule badly," it said in a withering statement, accusing him of ignoring Venezuela's pressing social, economic and political problems while falling back on antagonistic speeches.

"Mr. Maduro, the country expects better from you than a bad imitation of your boss. ... In his rhetoric, Maduro hides the leadership crisis in government given President Chavez's absence. He hides his weakness with shouts and threats."   Continued...

Venezuelan vice president Nicolas Maduro reads a statement about President Hugo Chavez's health condition in Guarico, in this Miraflores Palace handout photo, taken December 20, 2012. REUTERS/Handout/Miraflores Palace