Tags: Venezuela | politics | Chavez | anniversary

Crisis-hit Venezuela Pays Tribute to Chavez 2 Years on

Thursday, 05 Mar 2015 11:22 AM

Venezuela paid tribute Thursday to leftist firebrand Hugo Chavez two years after his death, but the movement he founded faces its worst approval ratings ever amid a deepening economic crisis.

The national homage started at dawn with fireworks in various neighborhoods around Caracas, where Chavez's United Socialist Party planned to hold an "anti-imperialist tribunal" later in the day at Bolivar Square in the capital's historic center.

President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's hand-picked successor, will likely use the event to renew his recent condemnations of the United States, which he accused last month of sponsoring an alleged coup plot against him.

Like his late mentor, Maduro regularly denounces alleged coup plots and assassination attempts.

In the afternoon, the government has organized a tribute to Chavez at the "Cuartel de la Montana," the military barracks where he launched his political career -- now a military museum where his embalmed body lies in a marble tomb.

The barracks is where Chavez, then a paratroop officer, launched a failed 1992 coup attempt, six years before finally coming to power at the ballot box.

He went on to rule Venezuela for 14 years with a mix of authoritarianism and charisma, using the oil giant's booming crude revenues to fund a populist economic model that he called "21st-century socialism."

When Chavez died at age 58 following a long battle with cancer, millions of Venezuelans poured into the streets in mourning.

His memory is alive and well in Venezuela, where his face is still splashed across countless murals, banners and posters and fervid supporters keep an altar to "Saint Hugo."

That fervor does not, however, extend to Maduro, who lacks Chavez's charisma and has struggled to keep his subsidy-driven economic model afloat amid a deep recession exacerbated by plummeting oil prices.

"In October 2012, 44 percent (of Venezuelans) defined themselves as 'Chavistas.' Last December, the figure was 22 percent. The political capital of 'Chavismo' has been cut in half," said political scientist John Magdaleno.

Exasperated with soaring prices, chronic shortages of basic goods and violent crime, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets last year.

The protests exploded into violence as the government responded with counter-demonstrations and a police crack-down, leaving 43 people dead, hundreds wounded and thousands arrested.

Chavez also faced protests during his rule, and even a short-lived coup in 2002.

But his go-to response was usually to muster his supporters for a mass rally.

Maduro, 52, has taken a harder line, jailing opponents like protest leader Leopoldo Lopez and the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma.

His government also issued a decree allowing the security forces to use deadly violence to control public demonstrations.

Maduro's approval rating is now hovering around 20 percent, putting the Chavistas at risk of losing key legislative elections later this year.

Polls indicate the opposition has a 20 percentage point lead heading into the vote, for which a date has not yet been set.

If the opposition takes control of the National Assembly, it could call a referendum next year to remove Maduro from power.

The fractured opposition, which has fought the last three elections under a fragile coalition called the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), will hold primary elections in May to choose its candidates.

Maduro's United Socialist Party of Venezuela will hold its own primaries in June.

 

© AFP 2017

 
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Venezuela paid tribute Thursday to leftist firebrand Hugo Chavez two years after his death, but the movement he founded faces its worst approval ratings ever amid a deepening economic crisis.The national homage started at dawn with fireworks in various neighborhoods around...
Venezuela, politics, Chavez, anniversary
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2015-22-05
Thursday, 05 Mar 2015 11:22 AM
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