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More Chavismo than Chávez

Letter From Caracas

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters during a meeting outside Miraflores Palace in Caracas, November 12, 2013. Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Courtesy Reuters

Throughout the fall, things looked bad for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. His popularity was tanking; most Venezuelans blamed his government for the economic crisis that had been plaguing the country since the end of 2012. In just one year, inflation had soared from 20 percent to more than 50 percent, and shortages of electricity, food, and other essentials had become a part of everyday life. Efforts to control pandemic criminal violence hadn’t yielded significant results, either. The majority of Venezuelans believed that their country was headed in the wrong direction. One could be forgiven for thinking that the Maduro administration was set to lose the upcoming December 8 local elections -- and big time.

Then, at the beginning of November, Maduro launched an aggressive campaign to fix his image problems. He proclaimed an “economic war” against private businesses. He forced them to slash prices on their merchandise and urged the public to “

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