Business Week reports a curious turn of affairs regarding new Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro (right). Maduro won the April 14 election by a very narrow margin, and there have been street protests by those opposed to his election, claiming election fraud and intimidation.
Now opponents have what they claim are documents showing that President Maduro was born in Columbia to Columbian nationals, and which if true would make the President not “Venezuelan by birth” as required by the Venezuelan Constitution. The opposition had raised the issue before the election (rejected in May by the Venezuelan National Electoral Council), and renewed it the end of June. Opposition lawmaker Abelardo Diaz was very birther-like when he said:
We haven’t seen a single document showing Maduro’s birthplace. We are asking the acting president1 to tell Venezuelan people the truth.
Maduro himself has said that he was born in Caracas. Diaz says that this makes no difference: “Under our constitution, president can’t have dual nationality,” holding to the claim that the President’s parents were Colombian. In a statement reported by the pro-government blog Venezuelan Analysis, Venezuela’s Minister of Information and Communication Ernesto Villegas said that the opposition was trying to “generate distrust.”
There is a renewed line of attack against our President, Nicolas Maduro and it seeks to seed the idea that he was born in the sister Republic of Colombia. Maduro is Venezuelan and was born right here (in Caracas) This has been demonstrated over and over again, and needs no further explanation. Nevertheless the attacks continue.
Did I mention that there are some folks who claimed they played soccer with Maduro as a child in Columbia? Clearly this is the Maduro Conspiracy Theories quote of the day™:
…if Maduro has both nationalities and has not rescinded his Colombian one, he is not qualified to be President (which he isn’t anyway, by virtue of having the IQ of a snail).
— Juan Cristóbal
Article 41 of the Venezuelan Constitution states (in translation):
Only Venezuelans by birth who have no other nationality shall be permitted to hold the offices of President of the Republic, Executive Vice President, Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the National Assembly, Justices of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, Chairman of the National Board of Elections, Attorney General of the Republic, Comptroller General of the Republic, General Prosecutor of the Republic, People Defender, Ministers with responsibilities relating to national security, finance, energy and mining or education; Governors and Mayors of border States and Municipalities and those contemplated under the Organic Law on the National Armed Forces.
Before his election, Maduro held the office of Executive Vice President under Hugo Chavez, a position that had the same Constitutional requirement. The opposition has asked Venezuela’s Supreme Court to make a ruling on the issue.
Here is an interesting exchange in comments at the Caracas Chronicles blog when this started last April:
syd: Bigger scoop: Where exactly did Maduro’s Colombian mother, who lives in Colombia, deliver Nicolás? In other words, where was Nicolás born? Did he really enter Venezuela as un indocumentado, receiving the Venezuelan nationality through one of Hugo Chávez’s decrees?
Francisco Toro: I heard she delivered him in Kenya…where’s the birth certificate!? I DEMAND THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE!!!
- Venezuela Conspiracy Theories blog: Maduro was born in Columbia
- Caracas Chronicles: Venezuela imports birther movement
- CNN: A ‘birther’ movement arises in Venezuela
1Executive Vice President Maduro became “acting president” upon the death of Hugo Chavez. The use of the phrase is intended to delegitimatize the election. It’s like the sometimes-heard phrase “putative president” used by the birthers for Obama.