Venezuela’s vice-president Nicolas Maduro is at the centre of Hugo Chávez’s inner circle, having been at his side for 20 years. As Chávez condition seemed to worsen following further cancer treatment in Cuba, it was Maduro who appeared on television to update the people of Venezuela on the president’s health. Born in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, in 1962, Maduro became involved in politics as a high school student. He then worked as a bus driver in Caracas before becoming a union leader in the 1990s. He met Chávez in 1992. Maduro’s wife, lawyer Cilia Flores, headed the legal defence team that got Chávez out of prison after a failed coup attempt. Maduro is one of the founders of Chávez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela and helped draft the new constitution for South America’s largest oil economy. In August 2006 Chávez made him foreign minister, and as Venezuela’s chief diplomat, the former union leader man became the biggest international booster for the left-wing political ideology known as “Chávismo” – the number one man pushing the Chávez vision of a federation of revolutionary republics for Latin America. Maduro is also a leading light of ALBA, the regional trade bloc for the Caribbean and Latin America, promoted by Cuba and Venezuela as a rival to the Free Trade Area of the Americas proposed by Washington. Maduro uses the same sort of radical rhetoric as his mentor, but lacks Chávez’s charisma. Last October, his loyalty was rewarded. Just after being re-elected as president, Hugo Chávez, named Maduro to a key position of power. Then in December, before heading back to Cuba for more treatment for his apparently worsening cancer, Chávez designated Maduro as his successor should he not survive, urging his supporters to vote for Maduro if a new presidential election was needed.