Analysis: Venezuela's Maduro channels Chavez, lacks his charisma

Mon Dec 31, 2012 12:12pm EST
 

By Daniel Wallis and Brian Ellsworth

CARACAS (Reuters) - He uses Hugo Chavez's bombastic language, brandishes the constitution and showers opponents with vitriol at every turn.

But Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro is struggling to replicate the extraordinary charisma of his boss, who is battling to recover from cancer surgery in Cuba.

Named as heir apparent by Chavez just before the president returned to Havana for his fourth surgery in December, the 50-year-old former bus driver has become the face of the socialist government in South America's top oil exporter.

Though diplomats say he is easy-going in conversations behind closed doors, in public he can be just as caustic and combative as Chavez, the former soldier who has led Venezuela for the past 14 years.

Having made few notable decisions so far during his three-week tenure as stand-in president, Maduro has not offered many clues as to how he would lead if he were at the helm of a post-Chavez Venezuela.

"Every day, Hugo Chavez makes us better patriots and better Venezuelans. He has created a generation of revolutionaries and blazed a trail for us," Maduro told one rally last week, lionizing Chavez in gushing and quasi-messianic terms.

"We swear on the constitution that we will be loyal to his leadership ... that we will confront all U.S. imperialist aggression, and dismantle the lies of the bourgeois traitors."

Chavez, 58, has not been seen in public nor heard from since early December, adding to speculation that his polarizing rule could be coming to an end. Late on Sunday, Maduro said the president was suffering a third set of complications after surgery, and remained in a "delicate" state.   Continued...

 
Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters during the anniversary ceremony of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) in Caracas December 15, 2012. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins