There were fewer than two percentage points or 235,000 votes of difference between newly elected Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. Maduro won by a very narrow margin, but told the crowds that the result of Sunday’s election was ‘just, legal, and constitutional.’
Maduro has received congratulations from leaders across South America and other continents, but the first one to respond after results were announced was Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. “Congratulations to the new president. In memory and as a sign of eternal gratitude to my friend Hugo Chávez,” she stated on Twitter.
President Fernández’s government promises to follow the vision of the late Venezuelan president in regards to forming a united Latin America. Meanwhile, the opposition is being more critical when saying that Maduro is not Chávez, that he is not a leader or a powerful political figure. The election results have put Venezuela in turbulent waters, because almost half of the voters on Sunday expressed the wish to end with the policies of Chavismo.
We hit the streets of Buenos Aires to find out what porteños think of Maduro and what kind of impact his presidency will have on the relations between Argentina and Venezuela.
Photos by Simon Guerra
I think it is good to continue with the policy of Chávez and that all nations of Latin America continue with the work from which we can all have some benefits. Especially, we have to end with imperialism. That would be good. Relations between Venezuela and Argentina will stay fine, but with the US not that much. Our main goal should be to stick together, us – the people of Latin America, we obviously should not care about the USA.
If Maduro continues with the projects that were started by Chavéz’s governement, then there will not be any problems. That is the only way for Venezuela to prosper. I think Maduro will consolidate the relations with Argentina, the communication that Venezuela firstly established with Néstor Kirchner and then with Cristina [Fernández de Kirchner] will be even better now that Maduro is the president. Although I would not put my head on a stake for anyone, I believe that Maduro was the best possible choice for Venezuela.
Argetines should not opine about Maduro too much. Only Venezuelans know him well enough to do that. But still I think that if he continues with the endorsement of Chávez’s ideas that would be excellent for the whole of Latin America. If I had better knowledge about Venezuelan history I could have made an even stroger judgement. We have to give him time, but probably he will never become who Chávez was. Even though people’s decision should be respected. Maduro will probably continue with all the trading with Argentina, whether we talk about oil or food businesses and he will definitely pursue the idea of a greater and united Latin America. There is a huge lack of that. The tight result between the main candidates shows that they must work together. Maduro should not leave Capriles on the side and especially not his supporters. He will have to consider their wishes and needs as well.
Maduro will definitely follow Chávez’s footsteps. This path has always been followed by our president Cristina [Fernández de Kirchner] as well, especially because of the economic cooperation between the countries. If the other candidate, Capriles had won, I do not think the good relations we have would continue. I support socialism, but not the socialism of Chávez, that was more of a totalitarism. Of course it is better that Maduro won the elections. But on the other hand Maduro is not Chávez. We will see how he turns out as the new president. I think we should wait for some of his first actions, if he will in fact do what he has promised to do. And it will be interesting to see how he will cope with the fact that Chávez was such a strong political figure.
The problem is that Venezuela is more divided than ever, there is no more unity. For a long time everything was focused around this big leader and the lack of this figure has put the relationship between the politicians and the citizens on probation. For anyone it would be a really difficult job to step into the shoes of someone like Chávez. Maduro is a unionist and he has a lot of experience. He has also shown that he has a strong opinion on other countries, but there will not be any problems between Argentina and Venezuela. It is just a continuation of a good and very long relationship and the only thing that the whole Latin America wants is progress, without any influence of capitalism which all over the world is in crisis. All the countries in our region should pursue self-sufficiency and independence, no matter how tough it is. Maduro’s supporters have voted for the continuation of Chávez’s ideas and all the others have voted for a kind of solution of actual and yet unsolved problems: unemployment, lack of food, criminals, murders, drugs, etc. A big part of the middle-class voted for Capriles because he was promising some sense of security and a change of policy. Maduro has everything he needs to become a good president, but the big question is how he will organise the politics. His organisation will be running the country in a different style than Chávez’s, that is certain and we must not forget that they have a lot of power, they are fighters.