Venezuela: Nicolas Maduro promises 'revolution of the revolution', advance to `socialist mode of living'

Solidarity protest in Sydney, April 19, 2013, organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network. Photos by Peter Boyle.

By Ewan Robertson, Mérida, Venezuela

April 19 2013 -- –- Nicolas Maduro was sworn in as Venezuela's president for the constitutional period 2013–2019 today, promising to continue Hugo Chavez’s legacy and spearhead “a revolution of the revolution”.

In the National Assembly in Caracas, Maduro took his presidential oath before assembly president Diosdado Cabello.

“I swear by the whole people of Venezuela, by the supreme commander [Hugo Chavez], that I will abide by and make respected the constitution of the laws of the republic ... to construct an independent, free and socialist nation for all”, Maduro declared.

Cabello and daughter of late President Hugo Chavez Maria Gabriela Chavez then placed the presidential sash upon Maduro.

In the presence of representatives of 61 countries and various government and public figures, Maduro made his first speech as constitutional president, which was broadcast to the nation.

The beginning of the speech was interrupted when an unknown man ran up to Maduro, taking the microphone and made an inaudible statement. After the man was escorted away, Maduro criticised the failure of security, warning “I could have received a bullet.”

Unphased, the Venezuelan president spoke on various themes, including the legacy of Hugo Chavez and trajectory of the Bolivarian Revolution.

The speech also touched upon events in Venezuela since the April 14 presidential election, when opposition candidate Henrique Capriles refused to recognise his electoral defeat, losing to Maduro by just 1.8%.

Maduro criticised Capriles for calling his supporters onto the streets on the night of April 15 to protest the result, rather than taking the constitutional route of formally submitting any claims to the National Electoral Council (CNE). The president also attacked what he called an opposition strategy to promote “xenophobia” in Venezuela, through criticisms of the role of Cuba and the presence of Cuban doctors in the country.

Maduro said that this strategy was responsible for the attacks against Cuban-staffed health clinics this week, after the opposition's protests led to confrontations and violence. As a result, Maduro swore to promote peace and to defeat the “anti-values” of racism and intolerance.

Further, according to the Venezuelan president, “whatever comes out” of the CNE’s widened audit of the presidential vote, “they [the opposition] aren’t going to recognise the result; they have another plan”.

However, the former bus driver assured that the government is “ready” for any further attempts at violence and sabotage, and that “the nation is strong, it is awoken”.

Dialogue and revolution

Maduro’s speech also focused on working with various sectors of Venezuelan society, including those who voted against him. “Fellow countryman or countrywoman ... who for some reason voted against the candidate of the nation, I stretch out my hand to you. We guarantee peace in this country”, he said.

Maduro set out his vision of governance for the coming period, looking to reinvigorate the Bolivarian Revolution after his narrow electoral victory. This approach was termed a “revolution of the revolution”, with Maduro looking to tackle problems which have cost the government support.

These include pledges to reduce crime, improve government efficiency and crack down on corruption. On the economy, Maduro said he would work to raise production while tackling shortages and economic “sabotage”.

The Venezuelan president also set the ambitious aim of “zero poverty” in Venezuela by 2019, to be pursued through continuing government social programs and other anti-poverty mechanisms.

Finally, Maduro committed to a “democratic revolution” by working to promote community councils and communes and move towards a “socialist mode of living”. He assured this could not be done by the government, but rather “by the people”.

The inauguration coincides with the 203rd anniversary of Venezuela’s independence, with Maduro participating in a military parade through in the Heroes Avenue in Caracas.

Opposition stance

The right-wing opposition’s parliamentary deputies did not attend the swearing-in event, refusing to recognise Maduro until the CNE undertakes a 100% audit of the April 14 vote.

Defeated opposition candidate Henrique Capriles called on supporters to bang pots and pans and play salsa during the event as a protest against what the opposition claims is Maduro’s “illegitimacy”.

A legal effort to block the swearing-in event in the National Assembly was quashed by the Supreme Court on April 18, which ruled that any challenges to the April 14 election result should be directed to the CNE, and had nothing to do with the National Assembly.

Further, Henrique Capriles has formally returned to his post as governor of Miranda, after the Miranda state legislative council moved to declare his “absolute absence” from the post. The government’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) holds a majority on the council.

Miranda legislative council president, Aurora Morales, welcomed Capriles’ decision, arguing that he “assumed before the world that he isn’t president of Venezuela” and that he was “made to respect the laws and democratic institutions” of the country.

UNASUR and NAM back Maduro, Washington maintains support for Capriles

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim, Mérida, Venezuela

April 19, 2013 -- -- The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on April 18 recognised the presidency of Nicolas Maduro, ahead of his inauguration on April 19.

After a three-hour meeting in Lima, Peru, UNASUR released a statement that the organisation “congratulated President Nicolas Maduro for ... his election as president”.

All eight heads of state present at the meeting recognised the outcome of Venezuela's April 14 presidential elections, though Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Peru's Ollanta Humala both expressed concern over the threat of political instability in Venezuela.

In its statement today, UNASUR “urges all sectors involved in the electoral process to respect the official results of the presidential election”. Humala has further stated that “any claim” or “question” regarding the results of the election “should be ... resolved within the existing legal order”.

However, the UNASUR statement also welcomed “the decision of the CNE to implement a system that permits a full audit of election results”.

Venezuela's foreign minister, Elias Jaua described the statement as “a reaffirmation of what we have advocated for in Venezuela”.

“We are pleased by the important support of the international community for democracy, peace and stability and recognition of Nicolas Maduro as president of Venezuela…Respect for the popular will is nonnegotiable”, Jaua said.

As he returned from Peru, Maduro tweeted, “Great success at Unasur meeting in Lima”.

Within hours of the UNASUR meeting, the 120 nations of the NAM endorsed a separate statement of support for Maduro. Issued by the president of the NAM Coordinating Bureau Mohammad Khazaee, the document calls for stability and a ceccastion of violence.

“Venezuela, under [Maduro's] presidency, [will] continue to contribute to the consolidation of the unity of the NAM and the joint fight in defense of the principles of the movement”, the document stated.

Representing almost two-thirds of United Nations member states, the NAM is comprised of countries unaligned with any major international power bloc. Its members comprise over half the world's population.

Earlier, members of the regional trade bloc Mercosur endorsed a statement congratulating Maduro on his electoral win. Representatives from Colombia, Brazil and the Dominican Republic also congratulated Maduro, while the Argentinian representative reaffirmed that his nation's observers recognised the elections as successful.

Washington backs opposition

While most of Latin America and the global South now recognise Maduro's presidency, the US has yet to acknowledge the electoral results. However, on April 18 US Secretary of State John Kerry indicated that the US now supports an audit of the April 14 vote.

After days of opposition demands for a manual recount, the National Electoral Council (CNE) and opposition leaders instead agreed to a 100% audit late on April 18. Fifty-four per cent of votes had already been audited on April 14 after voting.

Kerry supported the deal, stating that an audit would show if the outcome of the elections “has been fairly arrived at”.

Previously, Washington backed Venezuelan opposition calls for a manual recount; a process described by Venezuela's high court chief Luisa Estella Morales as “impossible” due to the level of automation of the electoral system.

Since the announcement of Maduro's victory in the polls, opposition leader Henrique Capriles has made a series of unsubstantiated accusations that the CNE and government committed electoral fraud. After expressing his support for the audit, Capriles has since called for more anti-government demonstrations.

International solidarity

Solidarity groups have also expressed support for Maduro's presidency, with rallies taking place in countries including Argentina, Canada and Australia.

The assistant chief of staff of Europe's largest trade union, Unite the Union, Adrian Weir stated that, “the ballot was free and fair”.

“The count was equally transparent and signed off by party witnesses including those of the Capriles’ coalition, the MUD. I’ve witnessed a robust system”, he said.

A statement released by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network has likewise called for the results to be “respected”, and urged the “Australian government to come out immediately and recognise the election of Maduro as the president of choice of the Venezuelan people”.

In the United Kingdom, Venezuela Solidarity Campaign’s Francisco Dominguez said, “Once again, Venezuela has shown to the world that it has a vibrant and healthy democracy where both sides can air their views. When the results go the opposition’s way, they quickly accept them, as Capriles did when he was elected as a state governor just last December. But when they lose they often reject them. Capriles and his allies should respect the will of the people.”