For all those wondering what kind of leader Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro will be when he succeeds the ailing Hugo Chávez, you may have just gotten your answer. During a televised address Tuesday on the Venezuelan president's fragile health and the country's political future, Maduro ripped several pages from Chávez's populist, anti-imperialist playbook.
First there was the announcement that Venezuela will be expelling David Del Monaco, an Air Force attache for the U.S. Embassy, within 24 hours for allegedly trying to rope the Venezuelan military into a "conspiratorial plan" to destabilize the government. Back in 2008, Chávez gave the American ambassador 72 hours to leave the country after accusing the Bush administration of supporting a military plot to overthrow him.
Then there was Maduro's promise to reveal "scientific proof" that Chávez's foreign and domestic enemies had poisoned the Venezuelan leader (presumably with cancer). In 2011, Chávez leveled a similar charge -- wondering aloud whether the United States was infecting Latin America's leaders with cancer.
Maduro also referred to the country's political right-wing as an "enemy of the nation" -- language Chávez employed, even more bitingly, when describing his opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski, during the last election.
In his December profile of Maduro for FP, Peter Wilson quotes a professor of Latin American history arguing that it's "impossible to expect Maduro to be another Chávez." Instead, the professor explained, "he represents continuity with the policies and programs that the president has promoted." If today's address is any indication, Maduro is planning to cloak himself in the more conspiratorial dimensions of Chavismo as well. What'll be interesting to watch is whether he succeeds -- or comes across as an inferior imitation of the Bolivarian Revolution's original steward.
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