Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s Leader, Opts Not to Deliver U.N. Speech

President Nicolás Maduro in Porlamar, Venezuela, on Saturday.

Flush with oil money and political bravado, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela used his United Nations platform a decade ago to call George W. Bush the devil.

Thursday’s speech will most likely adhere to the old anti-imperialist themes honed by Mr. Chávez, but it will not be delivered by his successor, President Nicolás Maduro, who dropped out at the last minute.

In a speech late Tuesday night, Mr. Maduro announced that Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez would speak for him before the General Assembly. In the same speech, he condemned what he claimed were acts by the United States against his country — including violations of Venezuelan airspace by American planes from a base in Curaçao. American officials on Wednesday denied that any such flights had taken place.

Mr. Maduro did not offer a specific reason for backing out, yet his announcement did not cause much of a stir in Venezuela because his government often cancels engagements and meetings without explanation. He has also sent Ms. Rodríguez in his place on several previous occasions.

The abrupt cancellation, however, came at what should have been a fairly upbeat moment: Venezuela was hosting this week’s summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement. But the government, plagued by a chronic scarcities of food and medicine, and rising crime, has lost much of the popularity it enjoyed under Mr. Chávez. On a visit this month to a town near the where the summit is taking place, Mr. Maduro was chased by a mob of angry pot-bangers who blamed him for the shortages.

There have been growing calls for his ouster. His opponents are pursuing a recall referendum, something that they hope could be a second act to the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff last month in Brazil.

Ms. Rodríguez may use the General Assembly speech to denounce those opponents as pawns of the Americans.

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