Chavez Death Leaves Venezuela in Disarray


President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela is the man who replaced Caesar Chavez as the country’s leader.  But Chavez’ death leaves Venezuela in disarray with members of the ruling party leaning away from Maduro’s struggle to hold onto power.

Venezuela’s economy is in a downward spiral, the nation is in a crisis over the increase in violent crime, and there continue to be questions about his narrow victory in last month’s special election.

Just last week Maduro called upon his government and people to create a “workers militia” to “defend the sovereignty of the homeland.”

While he worries about challenges from outside the country, his rule is being challenged by opposition inside his own part, and the opposition.

Mario Silva is a liberal talk show host.  He is the exact opposite of America’s Rush Limbaugh.  The self-proclaimed ‘Marxist’, claims to have a recording of a conversation he had with a Cuban intelligence agent in Caracas last April.  He accuses members of Maduro’s own party, the United Socialist Party, who oppose him, of being corrupt.  He also claims they are planning a coupe.

Silva also claims that Maduro’s own wife, Cilia Flores, the Attorney General, is manipulating the president.  The discord inside the United Socialist Party began during Chavez’ long battle with cancer, and has risen since the April 14th election.  (Maduro defeated centrist candidate Henrique Capriles by 1.5 percentage points. Chávez beat Capriles last year by 11 points.)

Without Chavez around, Cuba may be a greater factor in the changes that will take place in the government of Venezuela.  There is also a conflict between National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello, who is more of a pragmatist, and Maduro’s socialist ideological faction.

“The fierce chavista infighting and intrigues that Silva so explicitly lays out all sound plausible,” says Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C. “With Chávez gone, there’s no comparable figure who can hold it together.”  It is obvious that the country is in disarray without the presence of Chavez.

In addition, Venezuela’s relations with Colombia, which were always precarious during Chavez’ rule, may be deteriorating with Maduro’s succession to the presidency.

Maduro accused Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s President, with participating in a meeting with his opposition, Henrique Capriles on Wednesday.  Maduro claims to have been ‘betrayed’ by Santos.

“I’m very sorry President Santos has given credence to the fascist Venezuelan right wing,” Maduro, 50, said, again accusing Capriles of plotting to overthrow him and saying the Colombian government was now in league with that plan.

“There is time for rectification, that is what we call for. Meanwhile, we will continue evaluating all our relations with the Colombian government.”

Colombia is an ally of the United States.  When Santos came into power in 2010, he made overtures to Chavez that allowed both countries to increase trade along their borders, and ‘chase guerrillas, smugglers and paramilitaries on their long and violence-plagued border.’

Venezuela is in a state of flux.  Without the dominant force of the ‘demigod’ Chavez, increasing unrest will be the norm.  The political tensions have also hindered attempts to right an economy that, despite massive oil revenues, is suffering from slowing growth, increasing shortages of basic products, and one of the world’s highest inflation rates.  The country will be in disarray for some time to come, until a figure emerges who has some of the Chavez charisma.

James Turnage

The Guardian Express


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