In a tactic that many Americans will remember from President Barack Obama’s first term in office, Venezuelan opposition groups hope to force President Nicolás Maduro out of office by questioning his citizenship.
The so-called Venezuelan “birther” movement comes as the country suffered widespread protests and unrest following the April elections that saw Maduro defeat challenger Henrique Capriles in the narrowest election victory in 45 years.
Brandishing copies of what he said were the identity documents of both Maduro’s parents at an event earlier in July, opposition lawmaker Abelardo Diaz claimed that the Venezuelan leader was born in the Colombian city of Cúcuta to Colombian parents. Diaz asked the Venezuelan Supreme Court to look into the matter, which if proved true would force Maduro out of office as only Venezuelans born in the country can become president.
“We haven’t seen a single document showing Maduro’s birthplace,” Diaz said, according to Bloomberg. “We are asking the acting president to tell Venezuelan people the truth.”
Officials in neighboring Colombia, however, denied that any birth certificate for Maduro existed and claimed that the one flaunted by opposition Venezuelan lawmakers is false.
"The registry has some features that do not correspond to the format we use," Carlos Alberto Arias, the director of Colombia’s national identification registry, told the newspaper El Colombiano. The document in question, which has been used by Diaz along with Panama’s ambassador to the Organization of American States Guillermo Cochez – who has become increasingly involved in Venezuelan affairs – states that Maduro was born in the Colombian department of Norte de Santander on November 20, 1961.
While Colombia seems to have quashed the uproar over the false birth certificate, the question of where Maduro was actually born remains a mystery.
During a visit to Italy in June, Maduro said that he was born in the Los Chaguaramos district of Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, while Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said the same day that Maduro is a native of El Valle district, and earlier this year Tachira Governor José Vielma claimed the Venezuelan leader is a native of that western state.