Violence - and Hugo Chavez - loom large over race for power in Venezuela

The battle to succeed El Comandante has begun

Caracas

Hugo Chavez has gone but he continued to cast a long shadow over the race to decide who will succeed him as President of Venezuela as the election campaigns of his anointed heir, Nicolas Maduro, and erstwhile rival Henrique Capriles officially began.

Mr Maduro, who is acting president, made a pilgrimage to late socialist leader’s birthplace and pledged to win the election on 14 April in his honour, as the issue of Venezuela’s spiralling crime rate spilled on to the streets with anti-violence marches across country. Along with his initiatives to help the poor, Chavez also left as a legacy one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Joining a protest with thousands of his supporters in Caracas on Monday, Mr Capriles shouted: “We want to build a country where everyone can walk in the streets without fear.”

Mr Maduro opted to shift the blame for the difficulties Venezuela now faces. “The truth is,” he said from Catia la Mar, close to Caracas’s international airport, “that capitalism is to blame for the violence in this country.”

During Hugo Chavez’s 14-years as President murder rates in Venezuela more than quadrupled, from 11 per 100,000 people at the start of his tenure in 1999 to 47 today.

In Caracas the rates are higher still, and the violence shows no sign of slowing. At the Caracas morgue, of the 1,364 dead bodies processed in the three months since the start of this year, 65 per cent were murdered. Last year saw over 21,000 murders in Venezuela, giving the nation of 30 million people more homicides than the United States and western Europe combined. Much of the upsurge in violence can be linked to corruption and weakness within the country’s security institutions.

The majority of neighbouring Colombia’s cocaine trafficking operates through Venezuela. As a result, drug problems and ensuing crime have soared in the slums, through which the narcotics pass on their way to international destinations.

“We will go to the slums with our chests bare,” Mr Maduro said last month. “We will tell these youths to stop killing, to put down their guns.”

Not all Venezuelans are impressed by the anti-violence rhetoric. Waiting outside the Caracas morgue for news of her nephew who had been shot and killed in the Caracas slum of Petare, Antonia Diaz said: “The government says it’s going to change things but we haven’t seen anything yet. We’re listening to what the politicians say, but it’s another thing to see it in action.”

“The police do their job but they do it badly. The government needs to take responsibility for what is happening,” said Andres Verbosa, also part of the group representing the 26-year-old.

Mr Maduro is concentrating on the legacy of his predecessor. Never far from an image of the late President, it is Hugo Chavez who is pictured on Mr Maduro’s campaign posters.

The socialist candidate is imitating the former leader at every opportunity, copying his military dress style, rambling approach to speech-making, and his controversial political moves which have turned the election into one of the dirtiest Venezuela has witnessed.

Mr Maduro is set to breeze into power on the 14 April. His current polling figures allot him a 14 percentage-point lead. “He was chosen by Chavez and that’s enough for us,” said Eluterio Rodriguez, a Chavez supporter.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive - Graduate / Entry Level

£22000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital advertising infras...

Recruitment Genius: European Sales Director - Aerospace Cable & Wire

£100000 - £125000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Project Manager

£17100 - £22900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral