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Venezuela to hold presidential elections following Chavez's death

By staff |
March 15, 2013
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Following the tragic death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan National Electoral Council announced a new Presidential election for April 14, 2013. In the election, Acting President Nicholas Maduro of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) is running against right-wing leader Henrique Capriles.

Maduro was Vice President under Chavez. He took over Presidential duties after December 8, 2012, when Chavez was hospitalized in Cuba for cancer treatment. Since Chavez was never sworn in after defeating Capriles in the October 2012 Presidential election, the Venezuelan constitution mandates that the country hold another election.

The new election presents an opportunity for the people of Venezuela to re-affirm their commitment to the national democratic Bolivarian Revolution through the ballot box. Until his death, Chavez was the most vocal and visible voice in Venezuela. Acting President Maduro is expected by most observers to win. By electing Chavez's endorsed successor, the Venezuelan people will voice their continued support for the anti-imperialist, pro-socialist path of their country.

Since he won the Presidency in 1999, Chavez and his party ran in 16 elections, 15 of which they won handily. During Chavez's Presidency, Venezuela reduced unemployment by more than 50%, cut poverty from 42.8% to 26.5% between 1999 and 2011, and completely eliminated illiteracy. Chavez oversaw the passing of pro-worker laws in 2012 that reduced the workday, increased maternity leave for women, and banned many exploitative labor practices. The Venezuelan government also made public education available to all citizens and increased social programs for the poor. Maduro hopes to continue and deepen these progressive policies.

For many years Maduro was a bus driver for the Caracas Metro system and a trade union organizer. In the 1980s, he helped organize the bus drivers in the capital despite a company-wide ban on unions. As a member of the Socialist League and a founding member of the Fifth Republic Movement - the predecessor to the PSUV - he worked closely with Chavez since his election in 1999.

For seven years, Maduro was Venezuela's Minister of Foreign Affairs and well experienced to lead Venezuela. He is critical of US domination and exploitation of Latin America, and strongly supports the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA), which Chavez founded as a counter-weight to the US-controlled Organization of American States (OAS). Maduro worked with Argentina to resolve a 2010 border conflict between Venezuela and Colombia. Additionally, he followed in Chavez's tradition of international solidarity with his vocal support for the sovereign government of Libya during the US/NATO bombing war of 2011.

Chavez endorsed Maduro as his successor because of his working class roots and his dedication to the Bolivarian Revolution. Speaking to Maduro's succession on December 9, 2012, Chavez said, "My firm opinion, as clear as the full moon -- irrevocable, absolute, total -- is...that you elect Nicolas Maduro as president." Chavez continued, "He is one of the young leaders with the greatest ability to continue, if I cannot."

Both candidates are now campaigning for the election next month.