Last year, as Nicolás Maduro ran for the Venezuelan presidency, he received a visitor from the beyond. He was praying in a chapel when a bird flew in, circled him three times and began to whistle. Maduro said he felt the spirit of the late Hugo Chávez, his mentor and former President, who had come to bless his bid for high office.
[time-related-module] The Maduro campaign frequently invoked Chávez during the contest, and perhaps it helped. Maduro won — but only just, and not without the opposition alleging electoral irregularities. A year on, lacking Chávez’s firm grip on power, Maduro is struggling as a litany of ills, from soaring inflation to food shortages, fans popular discontent. All this in a country that many in the region trade with or depend on for cheap oil. Whether it collapses now depends on Maduro — and on whether he can step out of the shadow of his pugnacious predecessor and compromise with his opponents.
Kumar is a senior editor at TIME covering world affairs