National Technical University of Athens

The new president, Nicolás Maduro, has revived a longtime scapegoat for the country’s woes, accusing Washington of conspiring with other enemies of the government in waging an “economic war” that has subjected the populace to blackouts, chronic shortages and other ills. Borrowing from Mr. Chávez’s script, Mr. Maduro on Monday expelled the top American diplomat here and two other embassy officials, contending that they were plotting to destabilize the country.

But while Mr. Chávez skillfully portrayed the United States as an imperialist bully and cast himself in the role of underdog hero, many Chávez supporters are finding Mr. Maduro’s attempts to imitate his mentor unconvincing.

“This is the biggest mistake Chávez ever made,” said Axel Ortiz, 20, a student, referring to Mr. Chávez’s choice of Mr. Maduro as his successor. Mr. Ortiz still defines himself as a Chavista — a loyal Chávez supporter — but he questioned Mr. Maduro’s ability to solve the nation’s problems. “Chávez was the only one who was qualified, the only one who could keep things here under control.”

The country’s economic problems have become acute. Inflation in the first eight months of this year was more than triple the rate in the same period last year. When measured over the 12 months that ended in August, it exceeded 45 percent. A government indicator that measures the scarcity of basic goods is close to its highest level in more than five years.

Many stores allow customers to buy only a limited number of scarce items like corn flour and cooking oil. People complain of having to stand in line for hours, often in vain, and many are losing patience with the government’s explanation that unsavory conspirators are to blame for the nation’s problems.

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