Age: 23 November 1962, Caracas, Venezuela – 58 years old
Culture: Venezuelan, raised as Catholic – most recently he has been heavily influenced by Indian spiritual guru Sathya Sai Baba
Career: Received no university education. Though he has a long career in trade unionism, that started in his early adulthood when he worked as a bus driver in Caracas. Later on, in 1998, he began his political career as deputy in Parliament, later becoming vice-President and finally President of the country in 2013. However, the main important compliment that he lacked was military experience, which he has none.
Family: Married to Cilia Flores, one of Chávez’s lawyers who fought for his release when he was imprisoned in 1992. Both married when Maduro became president in 2013.
When Hugo Chávez was imprisoned in 1992, back then an army officer, Maduro and his future wife, campaigned for Chávez’s release, which came two years later, in 1994. Since then, Maduro has always been Chávez’s right hand. In 1999 he was a member of the National Constituent Assembly and helped Chávez’s government to rewrite the Constitution, as part of Chávez’s ascent to the presidency. Later on, Maduro became Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2006 and Vice President in 2013. Eventually on April 19th he was sworn president of Venezuela. The influence of his predecessor encouraged him to continue the Chavista legacy.
Contrary to the boom years of Chávez, Maduro had to extend his predecessor’s legacy during a bust economic period. To embrace it he had to radicalise even more. Maduro is characterised for being a supremacist and secularist. Recently, the Pope tried to encourage the leader in order to end violence, though Maduro turned his back on him and rejected any political criticism from the Vatican. In fact, the church by the Chavista supporters is considered to be a focal point for political incidents created by the anti-Chavistas. To understand the main reasons behind his profound radicalisation, striking fall of Venezuelan’s standards of living and the recent US sanctions, Maduro’s political beliefs and socio-cultural context should be better understood.
Maduro before politics
Maduro grew up in a family of moderate means in Caracas. Since his childhood, he had been in contact with politics due to his father’s engagement in labour movements and leftist politics. He was trained as an organiser in left-wing politics in Cuba. He did not receive any university education. He worked as a bus driver in Caracas whilst he was a representative in the transit workers union. After Chávez was imprisoned and he actively campaigned for his release, it was then when he started to have public relevance.
Targeted Bolivarian Revolution
Aimed at reversing economic and social politics that had been executed previously to the 2000s in an attempt to build new 21st-century socialism. Chávez styled himself as the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, a program for much of Latin America, named after Simón Bolívar, the South American independence hero. After many years of neo-liberalism during the late ’90s – early 2000’s, a movement so-called the Pink Tide occurred in all Latin America, where a ticking wave of centred leftist presidents started to emerge in the whole subcontinent.
For Chávez the focus of the revolution has been subject to change depending on his goals, hence so did Maduro do. The key elements for both presidential figures included nationalism, a centralised economy and a strong military actively engaged in public projects. As a whole, autogestión and centralisation became the founding pillars of the Chavista ideology, followed formally by Chávez and by his successor Maduro.