Hugo Chávez Cancer Taking Its Toll: Why It Won't Matter Who Succeeds Him

As the health of Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez continues to deteriorate, discussions are circulating of who may succeed him to lead the Venezuelan government. The president continues to battle pelvic cancer upon returning to the city of Caracas after a surgery in Cuba a few months ago.

Chávez continues to have breathing difficulty, and some believe his final days in office are near. Current Vice President Nicolás Maduro will be the top contender to replace the president in the event of his passing. However his possible succession has received mixed reviews. However based on his close relationship with Chávez, Venezuelans can most likely anticipate a similar if not identical regime structure that is in place today.

Chávez officially appointed Vice President Maduro as his successor in December 2012 prior to embarking on his fourth cancer-related surgery. The president urged Venezuelans to elect Maduro to the presidency in order to keep in mind his poor health conditions.

“If something happens that sidelines me, which under the constitution requires a new presidential election, you should elect Nicolas Maduro as president. I ask that of you from my heart,” Chávez said in a press conference.

If Chávez is to pass, then his powerful socialist revolution may come to an end as well. The president, who has held office more for than a decade, has launched a tireless campaign to provide social welfare programs while preserving its oil wealth industry. Under his rule, the president has made great efforts to break away ties to the U.S., and has instead teamed up with notorious American political opponents such as Cuba, Iran, and Syria. Between his aggressive leadership style and powerful rhetoric, he has won over the masses and will most likely provoke a future election resulting in a Maduro victory.

Some claim Maduro will mimic the leadership style of Chávez, and others predict him to be more moderate on policy measures. In an optimistic view, Maduro’s succession may invite an improvement in the U.S.-Venezuelan relationship. However the chances of Maduro introducing policies that will end the president’s powerful social initiatives is highly unlikely.

The vice president has spent most of his time alongside Chávez during his cancer treatment, and has become one of the president’s most trusted confidants. While Chávez has remained in recovery for over year, Maduro has performed as an active president making public addresses and appearances across the nation.

Maduro was a former bus driver turned labor union leader, which gained him a spot in the president’s administration. The president’s death will require a mandatory election within 30 days, but a new type of political leadership will not be likely. Based on his loyalty to Chávez and left-wing tendencies, a radical shift in the regime under a Maduro presidency is very unrealistic.