A woman holds a poster of Venezuela's late President Hugo
Chavez at the 23 de Enero neighbourhood in Caracas. Photo
Though he died a year ago, Hugo Chavez still presents a
weekly show on Venezuelan state television.
In the last episode, he showed off poverty reduction data,
railed at the "bourgeoisie" for looting the nation's oil
wealth, and accused the opposition of fomenting instability
during an hours-long monologue from the presidential palace.
The weekly retransmission of Chavez's famous "Hello
President!" program is just one example of how his successor,
President Nicolas Maduro, has kept the socialist leader's
image alive ever since his March 5, 2013, death from cancer
at age 58.
Elsewhere, a stylized image of Chavez's eyes - reminiscent of
an Andy Warhol print - watches Venezuelans from murals in the
barrios of Caracas and T-shirts worn by supporters.
His trademark squiggly signature looms large on the sides of
scores of apartment buildings put up under the government's
"Great Housing Mission" begun toward the end of his 14-year
Many official ceremonies begin with a recording of his
booming voice singing the national anthem, reducing some
supporters to tears. During the recent protests against
Maduro, riot police have even been using loudspeakers to
blast a popular song interpreted by the late leader at
Calling himself Chavez's "son," Maduro constantly cites the
"eternal Comandante" in his speeches. He even appears to have
adopted his theatrical gestures, dramatic voice cadence, and
habits of signing important documents in public on live TV.
Nowhere is devotion to Chavez felt stronger than in the
January 23 neighborhood, a humble pro-government stronghold
on the slopes of western Caracas overlooking the Miraflores
presidential palace. The president is buried there.
"For us, the supreme comandante didn't die," said Elizabeth
Torres, a 49-year-old who maintains a roadside altar
dedicated to "St. Hugo Chavez" near the mausoleum where his
"He lives in each of our hearts."
Every day at 4:25 p.m., a cannon reminds January 23 residents
of the exact time of Chavez's death while his face adorns
walls all over the neighborhood.
One large mural depicts the former president as one of Jesus'
disciples, alongside leftist icons such as Ernesto "Che"
Guevara, Karl Marx and Fidel Castro.
Chavez ruled Venezuela for 14 years and used the country's
oil riches to finance social programs that benefited millions
of the country's poor.
But he also alienated many Venezuelans who saw the former
paratrooper as an authoritarian, squandering the country's
resources and harassing the private sector to try to
replicate Cuba's Communist model.
The deteriorating economic situation since Maduro took office
11 months ago helped trigger a wave of anti-government
protests that have left at least 18 people dead in the last
On top of that, inflation, shortages of basic products and
insecurity have begun to irritate the "Chavista" power-base.
"If Chavez were alive, we wouldn't be going through what we
are going through now," said Jakeline Arrieta, who had
brought her two young sons from across the city to visit the
"I don't agree with the use of his name, his image like
this," added the 45-year-old. "Maduro should rely on his own
personality rather than that of Chavez."
Critics argue that the former union leader and bus driver
exploits the image of Chavez to cover up his own weaknesses.
"He's a very bad imitation," opposition leader Henrique
Capriles told Reuters.
But altar guardian Torres, who every few days puts a cup of
coffee next to a bust of the once caffeine-addicted Chavez,
says she is not concerned because her hero is watching over.
"The Comandante guides Maduro from heaven," she said.
"Every day, more people are tolerating Maduro a little more,
loving him a little more or at least accepting him. We will
never stop fighting for the legacy left to us by the supreme