Nicolas Maduro, the acting president of Venezuela, is running to replace his deceased mentor, Hugo Chavez, in the upcoming Venezuelan elections. While some initially expressed hope after Chavez's death that diplomatic relations between the United States and Venezuela could improve, they will only continue their downward spiral if Maduro defeats opposition leader Henrique Capriles next month.
Proving himself to be just as paranoid as his former master, the bus driver-turned-politician has implied that the United States poisoned Chavez with cancer. His government has subsequently ordered an official investigation into whether or not President Obama ordered Chavez's assassination. The U.S. state department has, understandably, called Maduro's comments as "absurd" and dismissed the accusations. Hugo Chavez made similar comments in the past, "wondering" if the U.S. was routinely poisoning Latin American leaders.
With it not being enough to accuse the U.S. of murdering Chavez, Maduro has resurrected the all-too-familiar rants of his socialist mentor. “Sooner rather than later the imperialist elites who govern the United States will have to learn to live with absolute respect with the insurrectional peoples of America,” declared Maduro. “We’ve decided to be free, and nothing and no one will take that independence that was re-conquered with our commander Hugo Chavez at the helm.”
Worried by the charisma and support of Henrique Capriles Radonski, the acting president has decided on two obvious paths to victory. The first is playing on the public sympathy and mourning for Chavez, building a cult around the man's memory to help keep his movement alive. The second is to focus his hatred on the United States, blaming the Americans for the world's ills and distracting the Venezuelans from the sordid state of affairs that their socialist strongman left them.
As a sign of things to come, Maduro expelled several American diplomats from Venezuela. The United States has returned the favor, booting two Venezuelan diplomats out of the country. Maduro has also kowtowed to that particularly sleazy fraternity of world leaders that his predecessor so very much adored, indicating continuation of Venezuela's disastrous support for human rights abusers and anti-American regimes.
If there is to be any hope of an improvement in relations between Venezuela and the United States, Henrique Capriles must defeat Nicolas Maduro on the April 14 elections. As the deck is stacked against the opposition, this seems unlikely.