Nicolas Maduro marks first anniversary of presidency as a loyal chavista

As of April 19th, 2014, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro will have been in office for exactly one year. For some, especially those who were on…
Nicolas Maduro marks first anniversary of presidency as a loyal chavista

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro attends the start of a meeting with key members of the opposition at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, April 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

As of April 19th, 2014, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro will have been in office for exactly one year.

For some, especially those who were on the side of Hugo Chavez, that’s a victory: Maduro has been nothing if not a loyal successor to the long-time Venezuelan dictator, continuing his socialist and nationalistic policies.

Others, however, are appalled at Maduro’s tenure in office. The ongoing protests in Venezuela are a sign of many people’s extreme displeasure with the Venezuelan president’s first year.

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Maduro already marked Monday’s anniversary of his election; Saturday will bring additional recognition of having actually been sworn into office for a full year.

Economic concerns

Between Hugo Chavez’s death, on March 5th of 2013, and today, President Nicolas Maduro has done everything he can to continue the deceased leader’s legacy. That includes continuing some controversial economic policies.

Maduro was personally chosen by Chavez as the latter’s successor. Over the past year, he has maintained the majority of the Venezuelan government’s socialist policies while continuing to promote universal healthcare and education and the eradication of poverty.

However, as we near the year anniversary of Maduro’s presidency, it’s clear that Venezuela is in trouble, especially when it comes to poverty and scarcity levels. The country currently has a 56 percent inflation rate, according to the National Post, as well as an incredible scarcity of basic goods: almost one in four necessary goods is unavailable at any given time.

SEE ALSO: Venezuelan assemblyman files for Maduro’s impeachment

Venezuelanalysis.com reported that 40 percent of food products subsidized for low-income Venezuelan families actually end up leaving the country in trades to Latin American neighbors.

Maduro has attempted to curb these issues, though without much success. In March, the Venezuelan president implemented Sicad II, which is a dollar exchange system that’s meant to suppress the black market exchange of American currency.

The black market is still thriving, according to CNN, though Sicad II has done a little bit to stabilize the bolivar.

Maduro’s government also increased the Venezuelan minimum wage by 59 percent during the first quarter of 2014, according to Telesur TV. However, because the government continues printing bolivars, pushing up inflation, changing the minimum wage doesn’t meant as much as it might otherwise.

Facing opponents

Maduro’s year anniversary is also marked by an increase in clashes between the government and anti-government forces.

While there were certainly protests under Chavez—many of which were brutally put down, according to Newsweek—the clashes under Maduro’s regime seem to have taken on a new flavor.

Some suggest that Maduro’s lack of charisma, a quality that endeared Chavez to his followers and aided him in maintaining control of the country for more than a half-century, is part of the reason protesters feel they can get a foothold in the public arena; others suggest that the increasingly dire economic straits in the country, cited earlier, are to blame for more violent protests this spring.

SEE ALSO: Venezuela’s fight is far from over

Others think Maduro is digging his own grave by taking the wrong tact with anti-government protestors. They note that where Chavez was, at times, content to let protesters hold their own meetings and eventually “burn out,” Maduro has increased the criminalization of protests.

That has led to more public use of force (though Chavez was legend for using under-the-radar colectivos to enforce his policies), which has in turn ignited world opinion against Maduro as he nears his one-year anniversary in office.

Presidential celebration

Despite the current conflict and chaos in Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro celebrated the anniversary of his election on Monday with a public rally, according to Reuters. The rally included supporters and salsa dancing.

The Venezuelan president also posted numerous messages on social media, thanking his supporters for a year in office and publishing a poster with his own image. The poster, reported on Twitchy.com, shows Maduro with a tee-shirt: “Whoever messes with Chavez messes with the neighborhood.” Above that, the poster proclaims that “Together, we are all Chavez.”

As April 19th nears, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the next year in Venezuelan politics will bring.