Chavez's path is rocky terrain for Venezuela's Maduro

| May. 6, 2013 | Caracas, Venezuela

Published by USA Today

Venezuela's new president, Nicolás Maduro, echoes his former boss in a continued tough stance toward the "imperialist" United States. But he is not getting the same reception that Hugo Chávez did.

Maduro's government recently arrested a U.S. filmmaker doing a documentary on the recent elections on charges of "spying" for the United States. On state television, he called President Obama the "chief of devils" for suggesting Venezuela's elections may not have been fair.

Some Latin American neighbors are not playing along.

Peruvian Foreign Minister Rafael Roncagliolo called on the Union of South American Nations, of which his country is acting president, to issue a statement urging Maduro to exercise tolerance.

Former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe says he is taking Maduro to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights over "immature" accusations that Uribe plotted to assassinate Maduro.

"As the facts behind Nicolás Maduro's fabricated electoral 'victory' on April 14 are disclosed, his legitimacy and ability to govern will be decimated," Roger Noriega of the American Enterprise Institute told The Miami Herald.

The United States hasn't acknowledged the result of April's election to choose a successor to Chávez, who died two months ago from cancer after 14 years in power.

Maduro won by 235,000 votes out of nearly 15 million votes cast, according to the country's electoral council. The losing coalition awaits the results of an audit of the close election results.

In a display that would have been unheard of under strongman Chávez, government opponents and supporters brawled in the country's parliament last week, leaving some members bruised and bloody.

Obama said in an interview during a trip to Mexico that reports suggested that basic principles of human rights, democracy, media freedom and freedom of assembly were not observed in Venezuela after the election.

"I think that the entire hemisphere has been watching the violence, the protests, the crackdowns on the opposition," Obama said. He said it was ridiculous to say American filmmaker Timothy Tracy is a spy.

Maduro reacted with anger.

"The 19th Century was of betrayal and domination; the 20th Century was of U.S. dictatorship and the 21st Century will be of hope," Maduro said Sunday on state television.

Tracy, 35, was arrested by Venezuelan authorities last week. Maduro said he personally ordered the arrest, accusing Tracy of fomenting post-election violence in which eight people died.

Alejandro Blanco, who attended recent protests that turned violent, said police used rubber bullets and tear gas against him and friends as they hurled rocks in Caracas the day after the election.

"There was never someone organizing the stuff we have done," the 24-year-old economics student said.

Riordan Roett, director of the Latin American Studies Program at John Hopkins University in Washington, said Maduro is trying to use Tracy for political purposes.

"The Tim Tracy case is a sad diversion in the midst of uncertainty, economic chaos and social upheaval," Roett said.

Roett says Maduro's Chávez-like language — in which he railed this weekend against "U.S. imperialism, the bourgeoisie and the far right" — shows he lacks an agenda for the country.

"Maduro does not seem to have many ideas of his own," Roett said. "It is safer to parrot Chávez.

"One does not see much chance of improving relations if Maduro is going to continue the Chávez tradition of name calling and insulting American political leaders."