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?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map