How Nicolás Maduro became Venezuela’s dictator

A history of dictators: Born in La Guaira, Venezuela, a city roughly 60 miles west of Caracas, on August 23, 1951, Maduro became the youngest son of the lieutenant colonel Jesus Juan Maduro. Jesus…

How Nicolás Maduro became Venezuela’s dictator

A history of dictators:

Born in La Guaira, Venezuela, a city roughly 60 miles west of Caracas, on August 23, 1951, Maduro became the youngest son of the lieutenant colonel Jesus Juan Maduro. Jesus Juan served as a top member of the National Guard and was later named commander of the Paramacay Army camp.

Nicolás Maduro’s first official job was as a civil guard member in 1984, when he was around 19 years old.

While attending Latin American University in Venezuela, Maduro stood at a stage during a protest against government spending and set himself on fire. His burn scars showed on his chest. Maduro regained consciousness and made a recovery, studying petroleum, then politics.

In 1995, he returned to Venezuela as a senior petroleum analyst at PFC Energy, and began working on oil and gas issues, partnering with other international companies to produce gas from shale formations in Venezuela. He has worked with 15 international oil companies, and was named president of Venezuela’s Oil Technology Council in 2003.

Profile of a dictator:

With radical anti-Americanism to back him up, Maduro was elected governor of Aragua in 1998, and president of the State Oil Company PDVSA in 2003. After eight years in charge of the country’s energy, commerce and military assets, he was elected president in 2009.

Bolivarian movement:

Maduro has touted his country’s “socialist revolution” as a way to build a new Venezuela for the 21st century, which he says has been shaken by the “failed empire” of the United States.

Street protests:

As discontent has spread following the president’s moves to rewrite the Constitution, he’s openly mocked opponents as “fascists” and said his government has the power to shut down the media and combat any widespread demonstrations.

Leader of a failed uprising:

A U.S.-educated economist who says he resigned from the Central Bank of Venezuela in 2014 to protest moves to slash the power of the institution, Juan Guaidó has become a leading voice against the dictatorship and a main target of Maduro. Guaidó was elected as head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly in 2015 and has renounced the Constitution. He called the country’s election in May “illegitimate” and took steps in February to call for Maduro’s resignation.

Free status:

Maduro has described his government as “normal” in contrast to the organized opposition and its governments. Venezuela’s free-standing generalissimo-model has reportedly benefited from U.S. funds to combat the left. Diplomats and the United Nations reported that 14,000 students from the U.S. are living in the country.

Date of birth:

Maduro’s father, Major Eladio de la Vega, died of diabetes-related complications in 2013. The father of 18 children, Nicolás Maduro has said that if he were alive he would be proud of his son.

Resignation of the U.S. ambassador:

From the beginning of the crisis, Maduro has slammed U.S. Ambassador Tonya Benford as an anti-Hugo Chavez puppet. While the U.S. has said it has no intention of intervening, Maduro has made Benford the target of international criticism. Maduro’s government recently summoned Benford to a formal meeting, arguing that she had tried to rally anti-government demonstrations against his government. Benford told reporters: “I was sure, for sure, [that] I am the free and sovereign ambassador of Venezuela.” She has reportedly received death threats and been stalked by pro-Maduro activists.

Postponed presidential election:

At the beginning of this year, Maduro attempted to have a vote in an attempt to avoid a humanitarian crisis and address protests against his rule. During his campaign, he said he would form a new political coalition, but it was later revealed that participation was much lower than expected.

Empty polls:

Maduro was sworn in for his second six-year term as president in January, despite not winning a nationwide vote in 2016. A total of 38 million Venezuelans are thought to have voted in 2016, making this the country’s least-favorable presidential vote ever.

December election:

With street protests raging on for months, the opposition organized a vote in December that could remove Maduro from power. Maduro won with 55 percent of the vote — the lowest percent achieved by any presidential candidate in Venezuela’s history. Critics said it was fraudcated.

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