Some natural laws do not apply to certain world leaders. Historic warlord Attila the Hun stopped the grass from growing by the grace of his step. Former North Korean emperor Kim Jong Il was said not to need to go to the bathroom. But the latest in the list of political leaders with mysterious qualities comes from Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro, who appears to have been born … nowhere.
Jokes aside, the birthplace of the Venezuelan leader is shrouded in mystery. When the topic is brought up, Maduro usually smiles and issues humorous quips. “I was born in Kenya, just like [U.S. President Barack] Obama,” he has said on numerous occasions. And word is, he will say it many more times.
However, there might be reasons for the Caracas leader to hide his place of birth. The opposition in Venezuela argues that the proud Bolivarian was actually born in neighboring Colombia, which, were it true, could remove him from the presidency: The Venezuelan Constitution specifies that the president needs to be Venezuelan by birth.
Little is known of Maduro’s past. There was a rumor earlier this year about the president belonging to a rock band, but it turned out to be false, as the rumor was refuted by the president himself in an interview with the TV channel Telesur. In any case, Maduro’s first 30 years of life -- up until the coup d’état of 1992 led by the late Hugo Chávez -- are shrouded in mystery.
The official version says Maduro was born in Los Chaguaramos, a working class neighborhood in Caracas. But the opposition, with Henrique Capriles as its leader, claims that Maduro's birth certificate has never been disclosed. “Nicolás, I ask you, where were you born?" Capriles asked in an interview with Univision. "All Venezuelans want to know. Are you also going to lie about this?”
Pablo Medina, a member of the opposition Patriotic Assembly, went so far as the European Union to notify them that "any contracts or any agreements that they sign with Nicolas Maduro, a Colombian citizen, are invalid, illegal, null and void," according to CNN.
Maduro laughs off the accusations, saying that since the opposition could not take him down after allegations of electoral fraud, they are resorting to discrediting his right to be president.
"I sincerely regret these rotten, ill-intentioned campaigns, which make us think about what would have happened if this country was in the hands of people who only act to destroy the dignity and reputation of others," a Maduro-supporter named Casto Gil Rivera wrote in the Correo del Orinoco newspaper.
Whether Maduro was born in Colombia or not, his roots can actually be traced back to the neighboring country. Maduro’s mother, Teresa de Jesús Moros Acevedo, was born in Cúcuta, a Colombian town on the border with Venezuela; documents show that she married Jesús Nicolás Maduro in Bogotá on Sept. 1, 1956.
Maduro’s only biography, “De verde a Maduro” (From Green to Maduro) -- an unofficial and unauthorized account of Maduro’s political history -- sides with the Chaguamaros story. Author Roger Santo Domingo states that “Maduro should not be undermined. He is a complex personality, who should not be judged before knowing him closely.”
Patricia covers Latin America for the International Business Times.
Before joining IBT in March 2013, she worked at BBC America in New York, La República in Lima...