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Having grown up as a poor child in the Venezuelan countryside, Chávez had an organic and intuitive connection with the poor and working-class citizens he came to champion.
A savvy politician, he cobbled together a coalition of leftists, military officers, broad swaths of the middle class, and Venezuela’s long-neglected poor.
Understanding Maduro requires understanding his predecessor Hugo Chávez, the populist firebrand who served as president of Venezuela from 1999 until his death in 2013 and spearheaded the country’s experiment with socialism.
But Maduro has done everything he can to prevent swelling popular discontent from limiting his power.His tactics place him among a special league of democratic authoritarians like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has used a referendum to expand the powers of his presidency, imprisoned political prisoners, attacked the judiciary branch of his government, and restricted free press in the wake of an attempted coup against him last year.Both leaders use crisis as a pretext for strengthening executive power while leaving the shells of their country’s democratic institutions intact.Maduro’s heavy-handed tactics mask his deep strategic weakness.Presidential elections in Venezuela are scheduled for next year, and a number of outcomes are possible.
Under his rule, Venezuela’s unemployment rate halved, income per capita more than doubled, the poverty rate fell by more than half, education improved, and infant mortality rates declined.