‘Maduro, our amigo’: loyalists in Venezuela cling to their man

In the final weeks of Hugo Chávez’s life, shattered followers flocked to a palm-dotted square in downtown Caracas to pray for the recovery of “El Comandante”.

Six years on, with Chávez’s leftist Bolivarian revolution seemingly in its death throes, some are returning to appeal for the survival of his successor, Nicolás Maduro. “There are millions of us,” insisted Fernando Andrade, 69, a retired electrician and one of hundreds of mostly elderly Chavistas queuing to sign a pro-Maduro petition in Plaza Bolívar last week. A few hours later, Maduro appeared and was greeted with chants of: “Maduro, amigo! El pueblo está contigo!” “Maduro, our friend! The people are with you!”

But as a revolt against Chávez’s heir enters its fourth week, political observers and former Chavista insiders say that claim to popular support has never been flimsier.