The Death of Hugo Chavez
Hugo Chavez, socialist dictator of the South American nation of Venezuela, died March 5. Chavez served as president of the country for 14 years and fought the cancer that took his life for two years. His death was announced Tuesday by Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro.
Though some looked at the man as a hero for the impoverished, many major nations, the United States definitely included, viewed Chavez as someone to watch out for, if not necessarily an enemy. An election for the now vacant presidency will be held within the month, and Nicolas Maduro is easily favorite to win that contest.
The last public appearance of Chavez was in December of last year, just after his final surgery to combat the cancer that was ravaging his body. While some Venezuelans mourn the man, holding numerous services and traveling to see his casket, others seem excited by the change in leadership, though most aren’t openly rejoicing. Some Venezuelans currently living in America due to fear of Chavez’s policies during his reign were open with their excitement about the changes taking place in their homeland. According to Fox News, these immigrants were displaying hope that things can now improve in the country they once loved, though one of the people they interviewed made sure to say that they were “not celebrating death.”
Beyond their hope for a brighter future for Venezuela, however, many former residents of the country as well as people around the world were quick to point out that we can’t simply assume that better things are to come for the small South American nation. Vice President Maduro is taking over as interim president until the special election takes place, but, other than the 30 day ambiguous window that was announced, no details of that election have actually been released. Some worry that Maduro will simply remain in power from here on out, with policies quite similar, if not identical, to Chavez’s.
Reuters cites Henrique Capriles as the most likely opponent to Maduro in the election, whenever it may take place. Capriles, who leads Venezuela’s centrist opposition to the ruling socialist party, lost to Chavez just last October in an election that many assumed he had a good chance in. The emotional climate in Venezuela combined with the fact that Maduro was handpicked by Chavez as his preferred successor should the cancer take his life means that it’s very likely that Maduro will handily capture victory in the new presidential race.
U.S. relations with Venezuela have been less hostile in recent years than they have in the past and we’re still a major importer of Venezuelan oil; more than 40 percent of Venezuela’s oil exports, BBC News claims, come to the United States. This figure is all the more staggering considering that oil makes up over 90 percent of the South American nation’s total exports. Despite hostile rhetoric for over a decade, the fact remains that the United States and Venezuela do a lot of business together, and there’s hope now that things can be bridged even more smoothly without the threatening tension that existed under Chavez’s reign. Most predict, though, that if Maduro wins the election, things will mostly remain the same.