After a stop in Uruguay, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro was
received in Buenos Aires today by Argentine President Cristina
Fernandez de Kirchner in the Argentine presidential palace, La Casa
Speaking on the tarmac of the city airport, Mr. Maduro recalled
that former President Hugo Chavez "deeply loved" Argentina, and told
local press he came to "ratify that love."
In his first official tour abroad, Venezuela's new leader is
visiting Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil in hopes of strengthening
relations and deepening cooperation within the South American trade
block, Mercosur. However, while a domestic dispute over the legality
of Maduro's presidential victory continues to drag on at home,
analysts say Maduro's tour is more about saving face domestically
than improving relations abroad.
"When there's problems domestically, there's nothing quite like
an international tour to make a president look presidential," says
Christopher Sabatini, senior director of policy at the Americas
Society and Council of the Americas in New York.
Mr. Sabatini adds that turning to foreign diplomacy is not a new
tactic. He points to the example of former US president Bill
Clinton, who when embroiled with the Monica Lewinsky scandal
embarked on a series of overseas missions. Presidents tend to travel
when they are under fire at home, Sabatini says.
Venezuela has been in the throes of a political crisis since
Maduro, Hugo Chavez's handpicked successor, inched out opposition
candidate Henrique Capriles in last month's election by less than
two percentage points - about 225,000 votes. Mr. Capriles and the
country's political opposition have since cried foul and demanded a
full audit of the vote.
Julio Burdman, a political scientist at the University of
Belgrano in Buenos Aires, says that the trip could help boost
Maduro's popularity back in Caracas. After six years at the helm as
Venezuela's Foreign Minister, Maduro "feels comfortable in
international settings," Mr. Burdman says.
Generating new accords and working abroad, Burdman explains,
"helps to alleviate doubts about his legitimacy as he's being
recognized internationally as president by friendly nations."
While the United States and the European Union have still yet to
recognize Maduro's April 14 victory, Latin American leaders in both
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and Mercosur were quick
to show their support for Chavez's successor, a move observers say
reflects their desire to secure a stable trading partner. …