There is no doubt that Venezuela’s new president — Nicolas Maduro — has a pair of lofty
authoritarian shoes to fill. Maduro, an ex-bus driver who lacks the grandeur and infectious charisma of his larger-than-life predecessor — Hugo Chavez — is looking to Edward Snowden as a way to prove his Chavez-ness to the world.
Domestically, the controversial and deceased Hugo Chavez consolidated mass amounts of power with polarizing policies and wielded the country’s vast oil reserves as a tool for his Socialist-inspired government — spurring what can only be described as a slow-motion revolution. With his televangelist-like gift of persuasive speech and his friendship with some of the world’s most infamous dictators (i.e Fidel Castro and Muammar Gaddafi), the name “Hugo Chavez” spilled beyond Venezuela’s borders making the South American president an international icon for anti-U.S rhetoric.
Like I said, these are lofty shoes to fill.
Maduro — whose entire presidential campaign rested on the shoulders of the continuation of Chavez’s legacy — must keep his promise. But with rumors of electoral fraud, Maduro’s presidency started off with a weakened foundation and his short reign has been plagued by a crippled economy, vast shortages, a censored media and a world-record breaking crime rate which has given Caracas the nickname, “the kidnapping capital of the world.”
Lucky for him, granting Edward Snowden asylum seems to be the perfect chess-piece move for Maduro’s international political strategy — proving his Chavez-ness while driving away attention from Venezuela political and economic pitfalls.
In other words, Venezuela’s decision to give asylum to Snowden is a political power-play and not an ethical move for the protection of human rights. When opening Venezuela’s borders to the NSA’s whistleblower, Maduro is doing what Chavez would have done: He’s making it a point to stick it to the United States.
In an ironic twist of fate, Snowden — the man who has become a symbol for transparency — can now call home a country whose government proves to be less tolerant in terms of individual rights and free speech than the United States. Careful, Snowden — Venezuela has been known to record phone calls, snoop through emails and persecute those who oppose the regime.