Friday, April 19, 2013

Venezuela: Spectator Interrupts Presidential Inauguration (Updated)

Update (10:05 PM): The man who briefly interrupted the inauguration of Veneuelan president Nicolás Maduro on Friday is allegedly no stranger to barging into pubic events.

Twenty-eight-year-old Yendrick Sánchez will reportedly be charged with "crimes established within the Venezuelan judicial code" after he leaped onto the stage where Maduro was giving his inaugural address.  

Sánchez has been described by several Venezuelan media sources as a "spontaneous man" who, along with his cousin Juan Salas, are infamous for intruding in high profile events.  Sánchez interrupted Spanish musician Alejandro Sanz in a 2008 peace concert along the Venezuela-Colombia border while at the 2007 Miss Venezuela pageant he took the tiara as the winner was being crowned.

On April 10th, Sánchez targeted opposition figure Henrique Capriles during a campaign event by taking away his microphone and proclaiming him as "the next president of Venezuela" before being led away by security.

Following the inauguration ceremony, Maduro presided over a military parade and then affirmed that he will serve as a "commander of the armed forces...with the legacy of the commander Hugo Chávez". 
Capriles, meanwhile, tweeted that Maduro did not provide "a single proposal or solution to the problems of our country" in his inauguration speech.
Update (5:55 PM): Nicolás Maduro was inaugurated was sworn in as Venezuelan president in a ceremony marked by an apparent lapse in security.

A man clad rushed the stage and grabbed the microphone where Maduro was speaking and momentarily interrupted the proceedings.

"Nicolas, my name is Yohendri.  Please help me," exclaimed the man clad in a red shirt (a color popular among followers of the late President Hugo Chávez) before he was taken away by security personnel.

"He could have shot me here," said an irate Maduro who later mentioned that he will "talk with the youth" regarding "whatever desperation he has."

Maduro said in his speech saying that he wanted to govern for "all Venezuelans," continue the social programs enacted by Chávez and pledged to tackle the country's problems with crime and corruption.  He also criticized opposition candidate Henrique Capriles by declaring that he would be "willing to talk to the devil...if necessary to stop (Capriles') hatred against me, against the people, to stop his intolerance".

Seventeen presidents, most of whom represent Latin America and the Caribbean, attended the ceremony held days after Maduro was declared winner by less than two percent over Capriles.

Opposition legislators boycotted the ceremony while Capriles urged his sympathizers to play salsa music and bang pots and pans in protest.

"Let's hear that salsa all over Venezuela! The voice of the people! This is a 'for now' government," Capriles reportedly tweeted.

Today's events in Venezuela have become popular topics for discussion on social networks worldwide.  #Salserolazo (named after the opposition protests) and #JuroConMaduro (roughly translates as #InauguratingWithMaduro) are among the topic hashtags being used globally on Twitter.

Original Post: Venezuelan interim leader Nicolás Maduro will be inaugurated on Friday afternoon as the country’s next president days after being certified as winner of Sunday’s snap election.

According to the Venezuelan government, delegations from sixty-one countries will gather to attend the ceremony at the federal legislature’s chambers.  At least seventeen presidents are expected to attend the ceremony including the heads of state from several Latin American countries like Brazil, Argentina and Colombia. 

 “Today is a day for solidarity, unity, development and progress in Venezuela,” said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shortly after arriving in Caracas today.

Not attending the inauguration will be members of the Venezuelan opposition who have disputed the electoral results where Maduro won with 50.78 % of the vote compared to 48.95 % by Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles. The narrow margin of victory represented approximately 262,000 of the nearly 15 million total votes.

“The sun always emerges after the storm…This government is only ‘for now.’ The good times will soon be here,” said Capriles via his official Twitter account.  He also called on his followers to play a version of the Willie Colon salsa song “Mentira Fresca” (“Fresh Lie”) that was rewritten to criticize Maduro.

This morning the UNASUR bloc held an emergency meeting and emitted a five-point declaration supporting Maduro as President-elect and congratulating the Venezuelan people for participating in the election.  The statement also called for all parties to “respect” the official results of the election and establishes a commission to investigate the post-electoral violence that reportedly left at least seven people dead.

Yesterday national electoral council chief Tibisay Lucena expanded an audit to include 100% of ballot boxes though she emphasized that “under no circumstance should this be interpreted as a vote count of any kind.”

Although it was not the “vote-by-vote” recount Capriles had asked for, he nonetheless accepted the council’s decision. He mentioned less night his hope that “the truth would come out” and the audit would vindicate his claims of widespread electoral fraud.

Maduro, who then-President Hugo Chávez picked as his successor before dying last month, will have numerous challenges he’ll have to tackle in the weeks ahead:
One of the highest inflation rates in the world, shortages of food and medicine, rolling blackouts in various regions in the country, and the fifth highest murder rate in the world are some of the toughest challenges ahead for Mr Maduro.
He may also have to put up with dissent and disappointment in his own ranks.
"Considering these challenges, it will be convenient for Maduro to keep up the electoral controversy, so that the unity within the party remains," says (Central University of Venezuela professor Angel) Alvarez.
Most Latin American and Caribbean countries have recognized President-elect Nicolas Maduro, though the U.S. government has notably yet to do so.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a marked difference in the way we respond to Maduro versus the way we responded to Chávez,” said Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.  “It still doesn’t make sense to get in, you’ll excuse me, a pissing match with Nicolas Maduro any more than it did with Chávez.”

Maduro will become the first president of Venezuela after 14 years of rule by Chávez.  His presidential term lasts until 2019.

Video Sources – YouTube via users NTN24 and cnnmexico

Online Sources including Updates – Official Twitter account of Henrique Capriles; Officials website of Peruvian President Ollanta Humala; El Tiempo; The Latin Americanist; El Comercio;; El Universal; Times of India; Bloomberg;El Nacional; BBC News; Reuters; El Espectador

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