He got into politics as a teenager, joining the Socialist League, which sent him to Cuba for training in union organizing. He then became a union organizer in the Caracas Metro system.
During Chavez's visits to Cuba for cancer treatment, the mustachioed Maduro was among the few aides at his side.
When Chavez announced Saturday night that he would be returning to Cuba for cancer surgery, Maduro was sitting beside him. The vice president looked solemn and turned to Chavez with slight wrinkles on his brow when the president mentioned his name.