After the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the West had high hopes for better engagement with the country.
But those hopes may be put on hold after Chavez’s hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, appeared to have won a narrow victory in Sunday’s presidential election.
Maduro obtained 50.7 percent of the vote while opposition leader Henrique Capriles got 49.1 percent, according to the official government tally. This means Maduro won by only about 200,000 votes.
Venezuela’s electoral commission declared the results “irreversible” even if the margin of victory was smaller than that with which the late Chavez himself narrowly beat Capriles in October 2012.
Maduro’s victory comes days after whistleblower site WikiLeaks published a classified cable showing that aid NGOs funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development had been working to overthrow the Chavez regime and defend U.S. interests in Venezuela.
The cable detailed that the NGOs were instructed to penetrate pro-Chavez groups in order to weaken support for him at the grassroots level, his main power base among the county’s poor.
Chavez was considered a champion of the poor both home and abroad and contributed to the development of countries with like-minded leaders in Central and South American as well as the Caribbean, for instance Haiti.
However, he also subjected aid groups working on human rights in Venezuela to restrictive laws, especially if the NGOs received foreign funding.