Nicolas Maduro: Bus driver to president

2013-04-15 08:35

Maduro wins Venezuelan elections

2013-04-15 09:08

Ruling party candidate Nicolas Maduro has narrowly won Venezuela's presidential election with 50.8 percent of votes. Watch.WATCH

Caracas - Venezuela's newly elected President Nicolas Maduro was by Hugo Chavez's side for two decades - from his first electoral triumph in 1998 to his last breath when he died of cancer last month.

Now the one-time bus driver turned union activist and foreign minister who called himself Chavez's "son" and "apostle" has a new title: Successor, after being declared the winner of Sunday's election by the narrowest of margins.

Election officials put Maduro's total at 50.66% of the vote to 49.07% for opposition rival Henrique Capriles, who however has thus far refused to recognise the results.

Handpicked by Chavez as his political heir, Maduro ran a campaign that wrapped itself in the Comandante's image, turning the late leftist leader into a religious-like figure - even calling him "Christ the redeemer of the poor".

"I never imagined this. Sometimes I feel like I am imagining it, as if the absence of the comandante was just a nightmare," Maduro - a towering, moustachioed burly 50-year-old - said in an interview last month.

Since Chavez's death, Maduro has emulated the late president's bombastic style, vowing to continue the oil-funded socialist revolution while deriding Capriles as a "little bourgeois".

Own style

Taking a cue from Chavez, who often accused the US "empire" of conspiring against Venezuela, Maduro accused former US officials of plotting to assassinate him.

He has regularly appeared surrounded by Chavez's family and named the late leader's son-in-law, Jorge Arreaza, as his vice president.

But he has also brought his own style, driving his campaign bus to rallies, playing the bongo before huge crowds and mocking Capriles at every turn. He kissed his wife, former attorney general Cilia Flores, at most campaign events.

Maduro was the target of jokes, too, when he said that Chavez's spirit had visited him in the form of a "little bird", and that he had whistled back to the bird. After the opposition mocked him, he sought to turn it to his advantage, whistling at every rally while releasing parakeets.

After voting on Sunday, he said: "I gave my vote to this little bird that is flying freely. I voted for him."

Although Chavistas appeared to have fulfilled the comandante's last wish, many said they will make sure Maduro dutifully follows their hero's self-styled revolution.

Courtship of anti-Western regimes

Born in 1962, Maduro played guitar in a rock band called Enigma when he was a teenager. He went on to drive buses in the capital's metro system before becoming a union organiser.

After Chavez led a failed coup in 1992, Maduro served as one of his bodyguards and comrades within a leftist political party.

Maduro was president of the National Assembly from 2005 to 2006 before becoming foreign minister, a job he held until Chavez named him vice president last year.

As the nation's chief diplomat, Maduro led Venezuela's courtship of anti-Western regimes in Iran, Syria and Cuba while forging a leftist bloc with like-minded Latin American states.

He was considered a moderate and pragmatic member of Chavez's inner circle who honed his diplomatic skills during his six years as foreign minister, but he took a hardline tone during the campaign.

Chavez named Maduro as his successor two days before he flew to Cuba in December for his fourth round of cancer surgery in 18 months, urging Venezuelans to elect Maduro if he never returned.

"He's a man with a lot of experience despite his youth," Chavez said.

In October, when he made Maduro his vice president, Chavez declared: "Look where Nicolas is going... He was a bus driver, and how they mocked him."

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.