Nicolas Maduro, heir apparent of Hugo Chavez, is a Sai Baba devotee – Shobhan Saxena

Shobhan Saxena“According to the Sai Central Trust officials, Venezuela was the centre for the promotion of teachings of Sai Baba in South America. The first Venezuelan disciples of Sai Baba date back to 1972 and Venezuelans formed a big delegation to the Second World Conference of Sai Organizations in 1975 in Puttaparthi.” – Shobhan Saxena

Nicolas MaduroHugo Chavez is gone, but the Chavistas – his supporters and followers – are in firm control of Venezuela. In a clear signal of who was calling the shots post-Chavez, the president’s death was announced by his vice-president and chosen heir, Nicolas Maduro. On Tuesday, flanked by top ministers, military generals and Chavez’s son-in-law, Jorge Arreaza, Maduro appealed to Venezuelans for calm while thanking Chavez for giving the people his life. “It’s a moment of deep pain,” said Maduro, his voice choking. “Comandante, from wherever you are, thank you for this people who you protected and you loved.”

As per the constitution, Venezuela must “proceed to a new election” within 30 days, with vice-president Maduro in-charge. The country will observe seven-day mourning for Chavez. In the presidential election, Maduro, a follower of Sathya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi, will probably be pitted against Henrique Capriles, a local governor who was beaten by Chavez by a margin of 11% in the presidential election last October. According to the latest opinion polls, Maduro will win easily.

Hugo Chavez & Nicolas MaduroAlways a quiet presence in all the photographs and official videos of Chavez, the new leader is no novice in politics. A former bus driver, Maduro became a union leader and joined the revolution led by Chavez in the early 1990s. A close Chavez associate, he rose to become president of the national assembly. In 2006, as the foreign minister, he passed his previous post to his wife, Cilia Flores. He travelled across the world, denouncing the US and cultivating ties with emerging countries like China and Russia.

As Venezuela prepares for life without Chavez, there is speculation about Maduro’s religious views. While Chavez often invoked Christ and appeared in public with a cross in his hand, Maduro has never tried to hide his admiration for Sathya Sai Baba, the Indian godman who passed away in 2011. According to sources in Caracas, in one of Maduro’s offices, there is a large portrait of the Indian guru.

Nicolas Maduro & Sai BabaMaduro has visited Prashanti Nilayam, the worldwide headquarters of the Sai Baba in Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh, on several occasions.

“Maduro visited Prashanti Nilayam four or five times, including once after the Swami attained Maha Samadhi. Whenever, he visited, he was accompanied by a large Venezuelan delegation and would stay at Shanti Bhavan, the VIP guest house,” said Anantharaman, media coordinator of the Sai Central Trust.

“After the Swami’s Maha Samadhi, the Venezuelan assembly passed a condolence resolution and also declared a day of national mourning. A mention was also made of the swami in the gazette extraordinary,” Anantharaman said.

According to Trust officials, Venezuela was the centre for the promotion of teachings of Sai Baba in South America. The first Venezuelan disciples of Sai Baba date back to 1972 and Venezuelans formed a big delegation to the Second World Conference of Sai Organizations in 1975 in Puttaparthi. – Times of India

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