In Venezuela, history is repeating itself in accordance with Karl Marx’s dictum: Hugo Chávez was tragedy; his would-be successor, farce. And while 14 years under the erratic former president have acclimatised Venezuelans to both these iterations, nothing could have prepared us for the bizarre sideshow of the election campaign that comes to a head this Sunday.
Nicolás Maduro, acting president and handpicked successor to the late Chávez, is running against Henrique Capriles, a centrist opposition governor. Mr Capriles, who lost an election to Chávez less than six months ago, is running against the former leader’s ghost. This dynamic has been cultivated by the ruling United Socialist party through lavish funerary folderol and rampant use of images of the deceased.
Recently, after visiting a chapel in Chávez’s home town of Barinas, Mr Maduro claimed the former leader’s spectre had even appeared to him in the guise of a small bird, offering its blessing and assuring him of victory. Once the media got wind, and the ridicule began, he ploughed on, reiterating the story alongside a plea not to be “made fun of” for his “spirituality”.
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