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
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect