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Week in Review: The Future of Venezuela

April 11, 2013

Tana Giraldo, ’14

On March 5, 2013 the world watched in disbelief and shock as news emerged reporting the death of Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, after his two year battle with cancer. Famous for his socialist policies, charismatic character, and strong personality, Chavez’s death suddenly put the future of this oil-rich nation in Latin America into question.

This week, various articles have been published speculating on the outcome of the elections on April 14th between Vice President Nicolas Maduro, 50, and Henrique Capriles, 40. Capriles is known as the candidate who ran against Hugo Chavez in last year’s election and lost by a few percentage points. He energized the opposition by delivering passionate speeches on Venezuela’s economic and social issues under the 14 year rule of the “Chavistas;” many Venezuelans were disappointed with the outcome of the election.

Maduro, on the other hand, is the chosen leader that Chavez promoted moments before his death. Before becoming involved in politics, he was a bus driver who admired the ideals of the “Chavistas.” As the Vice President of Venezuela, he is extremely close to Chavez’s family and powerful inner circle. In an article in Reuters this week, Brian Ellsworth  discussed the influence and clout of Chavez’s family. After gaining their support Maduro has taken an upper hand in this election as Chavez’s brothers point out the great leadership Maduro would provide.

Most of the articles published on the upcoming elections of Venezuela this week express that Maduro’s electoral lead among the lower class is based in an emotional attachment to the death of their leader. Ellsworth stresses that while the opposition attempts to point out the flaws of the Chavez leadership, supporters of this “charismatic anti-poverty crusader whose social spending won him the admiration of millions” will rally behind Maduro as they link him closely with Chavez. However, any possible surge in support for Maduro resulted from citizens’ emotional connections is still unsure. This article mentions that opinion polls give Maduro a lead between 10 to 20 percentage points, but Capriles and his supporters hope the “surge of sympathy over Chavez’s death will wear off before Sunday.”

In his Reuters article, Andrew Cawthorne analyzes the late surge that Capriles would need in order to have a chance at defeating Maduro. Gaining 44% of the vote last October demonstrates that he has the potential to win but he will need to reassure the lower and middle classes that his strategies will bring the wealth of the nation directly at the hands of the people. Another group Capriles needs to focus on is the “Chavistas”. If he is able to persuade those extremely devoted to the Chavez cause that Maduro is not capable of the job of leading the county, he has a shot at being elected and developing Venezuela under his own ideals.

As of now, everything is up for speculation. As the world watches anxiously on the future of this nation, it will be up to the Venezuelan citizens to decide which candidate they trust to bring Venezuela to its true potential and best represent the nation. The newly-elected president, whoever he is, will face extremely difficult issues,  including food insecurity, skyrocketing crime rate levels, currency control, the highest rate of inflation in the Americas, and a “Chavista-dominated” legislature.

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