Venezuela’s embattled President Maduro

Written by By By Farzana Shaikh, CNN

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro has a complicated record as a young revolutionary, as he continues his four-year term.

Maduro won a 2016 election on a wave of anti-U.S. sentiment, but his proposed changes have since been abandoned. Despite the declaration of a state of emergency, Venezuela was never able to exercise the enhanced legislative powers handed to it.

Seen as a harsh leader, Maduro has been blamed for widespread poverty and suffering. But many are also protesting against his rule, calling him a dictator.

The stakes have been raised by the U.S. action in response, promising to hit the country where it hurts — its oil industry. CNN takes a look at Maduro’s recent past.

Volunteers display the banners of Venezuelan civil defense workers who were killed during the recent earthquake in Venezuela, as they listen to speeches during a rally held on the anniversary of the 2017 earthquake, in Caracas, Venezuela, October 20, 2018. AP Photo/Fernando Llano

Maduro’s rise

Born to a privileged family in 1953, Maduro first attended university at the University of Venezuela. He graduated with an agricultural degree in 1984, two years before the Venezuelan military coup that forced President Carlos Andres Perez to resign.

He ran for mayor of Caracas in 1988 and won.

The socialist alliance that replaced Perez’s government called for the privatization of the state-owned oil company. Maduro, then a leader of the UNT party, seemed the likely candidate to lead the party.

But in 1990 he was arrested in exile for what he described as a cover-up of military cruelty during a 1984 massacre. Following the 1996 election, he was elected to Congress.

In 1998 he was elected vice president. In 2002, under the leadership of acting President Hugo Chávez, Maduro took over as president.

Maduro’s struggle

For Maduro, the election of the late Chávez was a personal triumph. After resisting U.S. and government pressure, Chávez was elected as Venezuela’s seventh president in 1998.

His proposal for a popular revolution, called “Bolivarian socialism,” was grounded in what he called “the State-worker union,” which he promised would benefit the middle class by expanding access to education and healthcare.

However, these ideas failed to establish a lasting political system, and were gradually abandoned as Chávez’s supporters became disillusioned with the state-dominated economy.

While the Venezuelan Supreme Court continued to investigate critics of Chávez, who were criticized for conspiring to overthrow the government, the group’s activities gradually became increasingly unpopular, and government supporters grew more authoritarian.

The government expanded its media control, and moved to outlaw the “Citizen Power” movement. Amid the launch of a two-year wave of mass street protests, Chávez died of cancer on March 5, 2013.

Maduro did not formally succeed Chávez, but took over as interim president for six months, and in February 2014 declared himself president elect. That year, amid an economic crisis marked by hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods, he was re-elected.

Global condemnation

Maduro has had international condemnation on his hands since he assumed power following Chávez’s death.

The European Union voted in favor of a resolution declaring the Venezuelan president’s inauguration null and void. And after the collapse of the government’s financial agreement, the International Monetary Fund suspended a $6.3 billion aid package that had been planned to help the Venezuelan economy.

After international experts called on Maduro to step down, the Venezuelan leader dismissed their advice as “meddling.”

The election of Nicolas Maduro president in 2014 was met with widespread international condemnation. European Parliament president Antonio Tajani said at the time, “He has chosen to use force and force is illegal.”

The inaugural Maduro was also stripped of his diplomatic immunity.

President Donald Trump in June revoked the Venezuelan leader’s right to run for re-election and imposed sanctions against Maduro’s inner circle.

Obama called on Maduro to hold fair and transparent elections to restore democracy to Venezuela.

A year later, Trump eased those sanctions.

The Venezuelan opposition has adopted an offensive strategy of civil disobedience, setting up barricades around government buildings, blocking traffic and blocking supplies of food and medicine in its effort to force out Maduro.

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