Ever since Nicolás Maduro put on Venezuela’s tri-colored presidential sash on April 19, 2013, people have been wondering how long he might get to wear it. And as the 53-year-old, mustachioed former union organizer begins his fourth year in power, speculation that this year might be his last is once again hitting fever pitch.
At issue is a recall referendum that could potentially end Maduro’s term and trigger new elections. And polls show a vast majority in the ailing country favor doing just that. But Maduro — like his predecessor and mentor, the late Hugo Chávez — has spent his career defying expectations, particularly those that write him off as a short-timer. There’s no question that Maduro is bracing for pain. Hounded by an ailing economy, rampant crime and a newly emboldened opposition, he’s now facing an existential crisis.