What Happens to Venezuela When Hugo Chavez Dies? Almost Nothing

While much intrigue has been made regarding the failing health of the current president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela will continue on its current path were the former paratrooper commander to pass from this Earth today.

There are three reasons for this.

First, as has been frequently cited in the U.S., elections have consequences. President Hugo Chavez was re-elected by a 10% margin (55% to 45%) in October of last year. Should he pass, he will be re-placed by his vice president, chief confidant, and self-appointed successor Nicolas Maduro. With respect to substance, Maduro’s views on economics, foreign policy, and relations with the U.S. mirror those of Chavez.

Second, while much fuss has been made by the Venezuelan “opposition” regarding the constitutionality of a delay in the ailing president’s inauguration (which is scheduled by law to be on January 10), these concerns are more political than legal.

According to the Maduro, should the president survive, and Maduro and other party officials have given no indication that he would not, can be sworn in before the country’s supreme court at a later date (a scenario cited in the constitution). The anti-Chavez opposition has maintained that should Chavez miss the January 10 deadline that the head of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, should take over as interim president (again a view also outlined in the constitution).

In either scenario, a staunch Chavez supporter would assume the role of president. The only real goal the opposition could attain is the removal of Chavez from power and playing his appointed successor with the head of the National Assembly. Given that Venezuela has a unicameral legislature and that Chavez’s political party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), holds a majority of seats, this is perhaps the best “checks and balances” scenario the anti-Chavez opposition can hope for.

Third and lastly, any change that might come from this “constitutional crisis” would be cosmetic in nature due to the fact that the change would be a strictly inter-party one.

For those of us who wish Venezuela well, let us hope that any transition that does occur is as peaceful as our own.  

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Jonathan Tkachuk

Jonathan received his M.A. in Diplomacy (Concentration in Counter Terrorism) from Norwich University and his B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University. An independent professional, Jonathan resides in Northern Virginia.

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