CARACAS – This month’s inauguration of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly also punctuated the rise of its president Delcy Rodriguez, who has joined her most enthusiastic admirer, head of state Nicolas Maduro, as the Caribbean nation’s most powerful figure.
Rodriguez, 48, was one of the few people in the inner circle of late President Hugo Chavez, Maduro’s predecessor and mentor, who did not kowtow to the leader, a characteristic that may explain why she lasted barely half a year as his minister of presidential affairs.
Maduro has called her a young and courageous professional who preserves the spirit of an ordinary citizen.
Remaining true to her sometimes brusque vehemence – a trait that irritated colleagues and diplomats during her 2014-2017 tenure as foreign minister – caused her to be sidelined until Chavez’s death in 2013. Maduro brought her back to prominence, initially making her his information minister.
Rodriguez, who studied labor law in Paris and began her political career as a socialist activist, began heading up the Foreign Ministry in December 2014, becoming a fierce defender of the Chavista view that Venezuela’s economic problems, including food and medicine shortages and sky-high inflation, stem from “economic warfare” and imperialist aggression.
As her nation’s top diplomat, Rodriguez’s major achievement was to rally Caribbean allies and prevent Venezuela from being condemned by the Organization of the American States (OAS) for its handling of the country’s deep political and economic crisis.
Although Rodriguez’s efforts amounted more to avoiding a defeat than securing a victory, Maduro hailed her for defending Venezuela’s sovereignty and independence as “a tigress.”
Rodriguez left her Cabinet post in June to run as a candidate for the Constituent Assembly, a plenipotentiary body whose creation has been denounced by the opposition, the OAS, the South American trade bloc Mercosur and numerous other foreign countries as a dictatorial move.
With Rodriguez at the helm, the assembly – whose opening session was Aug. 5 – has already removed Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz, a former Maduro ally turned harsh critic, and created a truth commission that could lead to the jailing of opposition leaders behind recent violent anti-government protests.
It also has issued a ruling stating that its decisions override those of any other constitutional bodies in Venezuela, including the opposition-controlled National Assembly, the nation’s unicameral legislature.