Nicolas Maduro’s smaller-than-expected margin of victory in Venezuela’s presidential elections raises the question of how effectively he will be able to tackle the country’s dire crime and security situation.
According to the count published by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), Maduro won 50.66 percent of the vote, to opponent Henrique’s Capriles’ 49.07 percent. Capriles has demanded a recount.
Maduro’s lack of public support, compared to the massive popularity of predecessor Hugo Chavez, could present problems as he attempts to enact security policies, suggested some analysts, with crime and security one of the most pressing issues facing the country.
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Maduro announced early on in his campaign that tackling crime would be a personal priority, marking a contrast from Chavez, who did not make security a major focus. Maduro has largely followed his predecessor’s rhetoric on the issue, blaming capitalism and the opposition media for driving up crime. However, crime and violence are fueled in Venezuela by high levels of corruption within the security forces — worsened by the growth of the international drugs trade — the abundance of firearms, the lack of a coherent, sustained security policy, and the weak judicial system. Maduro will need to tackle these issues, as well as inequality, in order to make progress on security.
In his time as acting president, Maduro has overseen the introduction of a new voluntary disarmament plan, and has also announced the Movement for Life and Peace, a plan to set up artistic, sporting, and educational groups in the country’s 79 most crime-heavy municipalities with the aim of using culture to spark a “rebirth of humanity.” This follows on from the policies of Chavez, who oversaw at least 19 different security plans while crime levels continued to rise.
Maduro has also stated that the police force must be “an instrument for the construction of socialism,” suggesting that the politicization of the security forces will continue under the new president.
In the run-up to the elections various commentators suggested that unlike Chavez, whose charisma and overwhelming popular support allowed him to deflect blame for spiralling insecurity, the electorate may be harder on Maduro if he fails to quickly improve security. His surprisingly narrow victory indicates that the new president is indeed in a vulnerable position, and that the issue of citizen security could prove crucial in determining the success or failure of his presidency.
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