Stepping forward

Venezuela's VP Maduro speaks during a rally in CaracasAs it’s natural at a time like this, most pieces written about Chávez’s passing take a step back and consider his legacy in broad perspective. For my piece in the IHT, I thought I’d take the opposite tack: stepping forward to consider the way President Maduro – the phrase still rather sticks in one’s throat – is choosing to play the politics of the here and now.

Key bits after the jump.

You might expect that, at a time like this, with their beloved leader on his deathbed, Chávez’s closest followers would try to create space for quiet reflection, dignified grief and national reconciliation. But no.

In the speech, which brimmed with insults and accusations, Maduro expelled two U.S. diplomats for plotting to destabilize the country and called on the president’s supporters to close ranks ahead of an imagined, imminent U.S. invasion and various other unspecified plots.

The paranoia and incitement were deeply unsettling to witness in a country where civil peace, more often than not, feels like it hangs by a thread.