One year ago today, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro defeated Henrique Capriles Radonski in an election widely considered fraudulent by the international observers present. Today, Maduro celebrates his victory after announcing a new Ministry of International Communication to improve his government’s image around the world.
“It is a great challenge for any nation to confront a communications war,” Maduro told newspaper Últimas Noticias, adding that the new Minister would fight “an international plan against Venezuela, which we will defeat thanks to our resilience on the international stage.” Roy Chaderton, the current Venezuelan ambassador to the Organization of American States, is said to head the agency thanks to his work in convincing the OAS not to interfere in Venezuela after ousted opposition deputy María Corina Machado was barred from speaking before the group in Washington, D.C.
Maduro has made strides in engaging the international community thanks to allies in international media. Last month, Maduro published a column in the New York Times in which he accused the opposition of violence and called for a “peaceful” resolution in which he maintained power. “Antigovernment protesters have physically attacked and damaged health care clinics, burned down a university in Táchira State and thrown Molotov cocktails and rocks at buses,” he wrote of the most anti-Chavista state in the country, which is currently under martial law. Maduro arrested and convicted the mayor of San Cristóbal, the capital of Táchira, last month for “inciting violence.“
Maduro also used the anniversary of his fraudulent election to praise the Bolivarian National Guard, his street combat troops and riot police now responsible for dozens of deaths of young protesters throughout the country. The National Guard, Maduro said in a speech, are “the people in arms” and “should continue to expand their work.” The National Guard have been implicated in more than 100 incidents of abuse and torture, and 97 soldiers are being investigated by the government in relation to these, though none yet taken through a judicial process or convicted.
A study by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime released last week found that Venezuela had risen to second place on the list of nations in the world with the highest peacetime murder rates, after Honduras. Forty-one have died since the current wave of protests began in Venezuela last February, when Maduro arrested Popular Will opposition party leader Leopoldo López on charges of arson and inciting violence for organizing a protest against the government. López remains in prison, along with a number of other Popular Will members and other opposition figures arrested for their ties to student protesters.