Friday, March 8, 2013

Venezuela: Maduro Sworn in as Interim President

Vice President Nicolás Maduro was sworn in on Friday night as the interim leader replacing recently deceased President Hugo Chávez.

“I accept this (presidential sash) though it truly belongs to Chávez,” said Maduro shortly after receiving the oath of office in the ceremony held in the federal legislative chambers.  He vowed to continue the Bolivarian Revolution policies espoused by the leader who died on Tuesday after battling cancer for approximately two years.

"I swear by the most absolute loyalty to comrade Hugo Chavez that we will fulfill and see that it's fulfilled the constitution ... with the iron fist of a people ready to be free," Maduro said.

Although Maduro claimed that he respected the U.S. he warned that the “imperialist elites who govern the United States will have to learn to live with absolute respect with the insurrectional people of the ... Latin and Caribbean America.”

Maduro also blasted the Venezuelan opposition, most of who opted to skip the ceremony in protest.  He urged Chavistas to avoid being “provoked by those who have come out today to act crazily despite your pain.” 

Hours before the ceremony, former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles accused the Venezuelan Supreme Court of endorsing “constitutional fraud” by permitting Maduro to be sworn in.

"I tell you clearly, Nicolas, I am not going to speak of the times you lied to the country, shamelessly…The people have not voted for you, boy," the Miranda state governor said.

In his first action as interim president, Maduro named Science and Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza, Chavez' son-in-law, as the next vice president.  Maduro also requested Venezuelan electoral officials to “immediately” organize new, constitutionally mandated presidential elections. 

Pro-Chávez politicians and activists filled the congressional chambers during the inaugural ceremony as well as international supporters such as Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and ousted Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo.  At the same time that event took place, however, residents of several Caracas neighborhoods took to the streets and banged pots and pans in protest against the government.

At a funeral ceremony earlier in the day, Maduro referred to Chávez as a “true son of Christ” who taught the country love and forgiveness.

“The battle continues, Chavez lives, the struggle goes on! Long live Hugo Chavez, long live our people,” declared Maduro in his eulogy that was delivered in a venue packed with representatives from over fifty countries.

“Hugo fed the hungry. He lifted the poor. He raised their hopes,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson in a prayer that also expressed his condolences to the Venezuelan people and the hope that U.S.-Venezuela relations can soon improve.

Among those who attended the funeral ceremony were leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean including conservative presidents like Sebastián Piñera of Chile and Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia.

Honor guards were made up of several notable Venezuelans such as conductor Gustavo Dudamel who led the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra in a rendition of the Venezuelan national anthem.

The body of Chávez, who most Venezuelans loved or loathed, will be embalmed and placed on permanent display at a museum currently being built.

Video Source – YouTube via Noticias MundoFox

Online Sources – The Latin Americanist, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, El Tiempo, ABC News, El Nacional, CNN

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