Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, is dying.
This is bad news for him, his followers and allies. He has named the vice president, Nicolas Maduro, as his successor when he dies or is forced to resign. Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader, is an unconditional supporter of Chavez and has been his foreign minister for many years. Maduro is not very bright and is very uncharismatic. He cannot succeed Chavez in anything but form. Additionally, when Chavez goes, an election must be held in thirty days, and the interim president during that period is not the vice president but the president of the Legislative Assembly, according to the constitution. The president of the Legislative Assembly is Diosdado Cabello, a former army officer and co-coup plotter with Chavez. He is tough, ruthless, and extremely ambitious. Do we sense a problem here during the period before the election, during which, if Chavez’s wish is followed, the government candidate will be Maduro? The possibility of an internal putsch, with elections indefinitely postponed, is there, and all indications are that the armed forces would favor Cabello.
It is also bad news for the other “Bolivarian” countries of the hemisphere, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina. Chavez bought Argentine bonds when no one else would and sent discounted oil to Nicaragua and free oil to Cuba. Ecuador’s Correa is already maneuvering to succeed Chavez as leader of the anti-US and anti-Israel bloc in Latin America, but he is not Chavez, and Ecuador is not Venezuela in terms of political and economic weight.