Nicolas Maduro – a biography
Nicolas Maduro is likely to become Venezuela’s next President following elections on 14th April. Polls show that Maduro, the candidate favoured by Hugo Chávez, has strong double digit leads.
Below we look at Nicolas Maduro’s life and his contribution in the Hugo Chávez government that has transformed Venezuela over the past 14 years.
Nicolas Maduro was born in Venezuela’s capital city, Caracas, in 1962. His father was a trade unionist and political activist and the young Nicolas soon showed signs of following in his father’s footsteps, by becoming President of the Student Union at the public high school he attended.
Maduro also became active in Venezuela’s left wing political movements against the corrupt government of the time. This was a dangerous time given the oppression of left wing political activists at the time. For example, Maduro was active in the Socialist League whose co-founder was murdered having been kidnapped and tortured by state security forces. [i]
Trade union leader
Maduro worked as a driver on the Caracas MetroBus, and founded an informal labour syndicate, due to a ban on formal unionisation in the company [ii]. This became the Union of Metro de Caracas (SITRAMECA), and he was later elected president of the transportation workers’ union, before becoming a founding member and national co-ordinator of the national trade union body the Bolivarian Federation of Workers (FBT).
Nicolas Maduro first met Hugo Chavez in December 1993. From then on he became a central figure in the Bolivarian Movement led by Hugo Chávez. With his extensive contacts in the labour movement, Maduro played key role in launching the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR) a party formed in 1997 to back Chávez in his Presidential run. With the movement’s support, Chávez won a groundbreaking electoral victory in 1998 and Maduro was elected as an MP on the same ticket.
In parliament he was the Head of the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR) grouping. He was also a Member of Social Affairs Committee that was important in the debates on the minimum wage, which remains one of the most impressive in Latin America.
Subsequently Maduro was part of the Constitutional Assembly, tasked with drawing up the new progressive constitution, which was formally adopted after popular referendum in December 1999. On this body he chaired the Citizen’s Participation Commission and was part of the Economic and Social Commission.[iii]
In 2000 Maduro was elected as an MP to the new National Assembly, a position he retained at the 2005 elections. In the National Assembly he served as President of the Commission of Social Development and was Chair of Committee that studied the promotion of employment. He was also a member of the Permanent Commission for Citizen Participation.
In 2005 he was elected President of the National Assembly. The following year he was made Foreign Minister, a role in which he gained experience on the world stage, and garnered admiration for his role as “the architect of the remarkable turnaround of relations with Colombia”[iv].
Under Maduro’s leadership integration and cooperation with countries throughout the region was strengthened and consolidated. Venezuela joined the trade block Mercosur, ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the People’s of the Americas) increased in membership, and both UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) and CELAC (Community of Latin American and CaribbeanStates) came into being, in which Maduro played a “decisive role” according to former Brazilian President Lula de Silva.
Lula has recently praised Maduro, saying that he ”stood out brilliantly in the struggle for Venezuela’s recognition in the world, and to build a more democratic and caring Latin America”. Beyond Latin American and the Caribbean, Maduro supported the Venezuelan vision of a more ‘multi-polar world’.
Having proven himself a capable leader, Maduro was made Vice President of Venezuela in October 2012. Two months later, in December, President Hugo Chávez nominated Maduro as his preferred successor as leader of the governing PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela). When doing so Chávez described Maduro as “a complete revolutionary, a man of great experience despite his youth, with great dedication and capacity for work, for leading, for handling the most difficult situations”[v].
On March 9th 2013, Nicolas Maduro was sworn in as interim President, following the tragic and untimely death of President Chávez four days earlier, and in accordance with Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution.
On 14 April he will stand as PSUV candidate in the forthcoming Presidential elections against the opposition candidate Henry Capriles. If elected, he will be part of the new generation of Latin American leaders, such as Lula in Brazil or Evo Morales in Bolivia who entered politics after being trade union leaders and leaders of the social struggles.
Stephanie Pearce, VSC Research & Campaigns Assistant
[i] Correo del Orinoco, 29 July 2011, Remembering Injustice: Venezuelan Activist Jorge Rodriguez Assassinated by Government Forces in 1976
[ii] Virginia Lopez (2012) Guardian online http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/12/hugo-chavez-heir
[iv] Javier Corrales cited in Virginia Lopez (2012) Guardian online http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/12/hugo-chavez-heir