Hugo Chavez’s legacy: Failing to prepare Venezuela for the next leader

Nicolás Maduro“This Revolution does not just depend on one person,” Chavez told Venezuelans in a television address Saturday night. Sadly for Mr. Chavez, that claim may soon be tested. 58-year-old caudillo, who has been suffering since early last year from an undisclosed form of cancer, has returned to Cuba for more surgery, is sick enough to have named a successor in the event he is unable to remain in office. Mr. Chavez’s incapacitation could tip Venezuela, one of largest U.S. oil suppliers, toward a prolonged period of turmoil or even violence. If so, it will be due not so much to his illness but to the breathtaking irresponsibility with which he has responded to it. Mr. Chavez did not tell Venezuelans he was ill until after he had already undergone at least one cancer surgery in Cuba; to this day he has not said what type of cancer he has or what his prognosis is. Twice he has declared himself fully cured, most recently when he launched this year a campaign for a new six-year term as president. Almost immediately after his victory in the Oct. 7 vote, Mr. Chavez disappeared from view, a strong indication that he deceived the millions of voters who supported him. Hugo Chavez is now saying that his longtime foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, should succeed him. But he cannot appoint him to office: Venezuela’s constitution says that if the president dies or is forced to leave office, new election for president must be held within 30 days. There is no guarantee Chavez’s populist movement can hold together after his death or that Mr. Maduro could defeat a challenger from Venezuelan opposition. Polls have consistently shown that the opposition candidate in October election, Henrique Capriles Radonski, could defeat any government nominee except for Chavez. Mr. Hugo Chavez has meanwhile ensured that whoever succeeds him will inherit a daunting mess. To win the election, government spent wildly, running up a budget deficit of 20% of gross domestic product. Next president consequently will be forced to devalue the currency, giving a boost to inflation that is already in double digits and worsening already-severe shortages of consumer goods. That’s not to mention tidal wave of violence that has overtaken the country: Venezuela’s murder rate is now one of the highest in the world. In 14 years in power, Chavez has thoroughly wrecked what was once Latin America’s richest country, one of its most enduring democracies. Now, thanks to his dishonesty about his health, he could create a vacuum in which Venezuelans have 30 days to decide on a leader to inherit catastrophe he created. (Editorial Board – The Washington Post – 11/12/2012) 


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Consultor Internacional

3 Responses to Hugo Chavez’s legacy: Failing to prepare Venezuela for the next leader

  1. He once drove a bus across the gritty streets of Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, and later rose through the ranks of the trade union movement. Now Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s tall, broad-shouldered 50-year-old vice president, has been anointed as the possible successor to President Hugo Chavez, should the populist leader’s recurring cancer force him from power. The president’s decision to name Maduro as his heir astonished the oil-rich country, where many view Chavez as a messiah-like leader with no equal after 14 years in power. In a dramatic televised address Saturday, Chavez extolled Maduro as having the “heart of a man of the people.” With Maduro seated at his left, Chavez said he had proved his mettle by loyally serving the government for years, the past six as foreign minister, hopscotching the globe. “He is a complete revolutionary, a man of great experience despite his youth, with great dedication and capacity for work, for leading, for handling the most difficult situations,” said Chavez, 58, a former lieutenant colonel who took office in 1999. “I’ve seen it. We’ve all seen it.” The president said that it was his “firm opinion, clear like a full moon, irrevocable, absolute, total” that Venezuelans should vote for Maduro should Chavez’s condition sideline him and trigger a new presidential election. The constitution requires an election within 30 days of a president being forced from office. Political analysts said the announcement appeared designed with two purposes in mind: to signal Chavez’s strong support for one man and to quell Maduro’s rivals within the president’s movement, known as Chavismo. Early Monday, 27 hours after his address, Chavez boarded a flight to Cuba, where he is to undergo his fourth operation in 18 months on the stubborn cancer in his pelvic area. “He has to make sure those inside will respect him, that he is able to control and tame the internal monsters,” Luis Vicente Leon, who runs the Datanalisis polling firm in Caracas, said of Chavez. “There are divisions in Chavismo, and strong ones, and they can be dangerous in the future if not managed.” Leon said that in Maduro, the president has a time-tested leader who has risen from street-level socialist activist to president of the National Assembly to foreign minister, a post he continues to hold. In October, Chavez named Maduro his vice president, giving him more prominence in a government where cabinet members are juggled and ousted frequently. “Look where Nicolas is going, the bus driver,” Chavez said at the time. Those who’ve known Maduro describe him as jovial and friendly, a man who enjoys socializing and eating sub sandwiches. But he also apparently has a spiritual side: He used to travel to India with his wife, Cilia Flores, also a Chavez loyalist, to hear the advice of Sathya Sai Babaa, a guru who had a worldwide following until his death in 2011. Chavez, who met Maduro in the 1980s when he led a clandestine group of rebellious army officers, had other options. His older brother, Adan, introduced him to radical politics. His former vice president, Elias Jaua, who rose up from university rabble-rouser, has been a fixture. Then there is National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, a former military man and coup plotter whose name means ¡¡¡ “God-given hair.” !!! (…..)

  2. La confirmación de que Hugo Chávez no está curado convierte las elecciones a gobernadores y alcaldes del día 16 en segunda vuelta de las presidenciales, que el presidente venezolano ganó cómodamente a Henrique Capriles el 7 de octubre. Y si esas elecciones fueron un plebiscito sobre el propio líder bolivariano, las regionales van a serlo sobre el chavismo. Como todos los dirigentes impregnados de Mesías, aquellos que tienen una conexión especial con su pueblo, en este caso más étnica y de clase que telúrica, no ha designado sucesor que se le compare. Nicolás Maduro, para quien Chávez ha pedido ya el voto, es un reflejo conciliador, sindicalizado, y de mística fidelidad al jefe (…..) Genio y figura, Chávez ha obrado ante su cuarta operación y viaje número 12 a La Habana, con su desparpajo habitual, nombrando sucesor sin consultar a nadie a su ministro de Exteriores y vicepresidente, Nicolás Maduro, al que ha tenido siempre junto a sí como una compresa, mientras sigue sin deletrear el mal preciso que le aqueja. Como dice, en conversación con el periodista, la politóloga Milagros Socorro, su comparecencia del viernes pasado para reconocer el progreso inexorable del mal:

    “no tuvo la finalidad de decir la verdad, sino de hacer una desesperada imploración por la unidad de sus filas, en las que hay quienes se empinan sobre el lecho del enfermo para lanzarse dentelladas”.

    La analista venezolana pensaba en Diosdado Cabello, otro golpista veterano, bien implantado en el Ejército, y de manufactura más pulida que Maduro, al que cuesta creer que haya complacido el ucase de Miraflores. Hugo Chávez Frías vive obsesionado por la historia, pasada y futura, y en tiempos mejores había jalonado su inagotable presidencia de citas consigo mismo y el panteón independentista. Fiel a sus palabras de que “la patria solo nace” con su gobernación, quería dar su obra por cumplida al menos con otros dos resonantes memoriales: en 2021 para el 200 aniversario de la batalla de Carabobo, que liberó de realistas la tierra caraqueña, y como traca final conmemorativa, 2030, a dos siglos de la muerte de su inspiración votiva, Simón Bolívar, el Libertador. Hoy no está claro que pueda acudir a tanta cita.

  3. (…..) Venezuela’s long suffering liberal opposition looks on this spectacle with some hope and not a little trepidation. In elections barely two months ago, the opposition was thumped by more than 11 points as an ailing Chávez, barely able to campaign, nonetheless coasted to a third term. To some, Chávez’s charisma carried the day. My analysis is less optimistic: That campaign showed the obscene structural advantages a cash-flush petrostate incumbent enjoys in an increasingly autocratic environment where opposition fundraising is badly hobbled by harassment and intimidation against its donors, and all checks on the abuse of official prerogatives for campaign advantage have been hollowed out. While Maduro has none of Chávez’s charisma or storied emotional bond with the poor, he would undoubtedly inherit that advantage. Then there’s the question of whom the opposition might run against Maduro. The previous standard bearer, Miranda State Governor Henrique Capriles, ran an impressive campaign that garnered 6.5 million votes against Chávez in October—an opposition record. But the young moderate was still buried by a landslide of over 8 million Chavista votes, and there would be plenty of rumbling from other aspirants should he stand again. As it happens, Capriles must clear one other hurdle before he can even think about a renewed presidential run: This Sunday, he’s up for re-election in Miranda against Chávez’s previous vice president, the charismatically challenged Elias Jaua. Chavistas are already talking up the prospects of a “double play” against Capriles, as it’s hard to see him standing for national office if he can’t hold on to his own state. In fact, even a close win on home turf might hobble Capriles’s national viability. Plenty of other opposition figures would love a go at Maduro, which raises the stakes for Sunday’s regional elections considerably.

    Should Capriles underperform in Miranda, Sunday’s vote could end up serving as a de facto opposition primary, with the opposition figure who performs best becoming the presumptive nominee against Maduro (…..)


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