Venezuela: A Future with or Without in Hugo Chavez

Gareth Jones and David Frederick

Gareth Jones  

Is Hugo Chavez dead? Probably not, but he may as well be. For the charismatic, publicly active leader, missing a camera opportunity hurts more than missing the birth of a grandchild, and yet on Jan. 10, Chavez did just that. After a majority vote of 54 percent in the October 2012 Venezuelan presidential elections, Chavez comfortably reassured his place at the head of the never-ending Venezuelan revolution, and publicly promised to do his best to “deepen the socialist revolution,” as MSNBC reported last week. He has since more or less disappeared.

Like his Cuban counterpart Fidel Castro, the lack of information about his health is rivaled only by the flood of speculation about his ability to stay in power. On Jan. 13, 2013, Chavez was scheduled to play the lead role in his own presidential inauguration. Yet come the day of the inaguration, the Venezuelan people were surprised not by what Hugo Chavez was saying, but for once by what he was not saying. Chavez was a no show. His Vice President and probable successor Nicolas Maduro released a statement on Sunday, admitting that Chavez has been in surgery in an attempt to thwart whatever cancer plagues him, and is “recovering.”

This is all well and good, and of course our best wishes go out to Hugo Chavez’s health, but a recovering cancer patient is not amongst the short list of candidates fit to run a country. Of course, the comparison is unfair for many reasons, but just imagine Obama not showing up last Sunday/Monday, amidst rumors of cancer treatment, and him getting on Air Force One for medical treatment in England. He would likely be impeached faster than Rick Perry could get his own presidential campaign started. But President Obama is beside the point. That Chavez would miss his inauguration is more than proof enough that his reign, however democratic, is over. So what happens next?

The official version of potential events is clear, Chavez said it himself when he said that in the event of his untimely death, his vice-president should run his own campaign for the presidential election, winning it just as fairly he himself has since 1999. However, the opposition is not so sure. A scheduled march tomorrow by a coalition of opposition forces has been canceled – a spokesperson for the march cited the “clear intentions of taking to the streets of the capital with the purpose of inciting violence.”

This is likely in reference to a counter march scheduled by Chavez’s own United Socialist Party for the same day, which no doubt would have caused or perpetuated potential violence as the nation’s divided political entities met in the streets of Caracas. Regardless of the outcome of the counter marches tomorrow, any nation whose opposition government has to cancel a march in fear of violence is no true democracy, and whoever ends up replacing Chavez will have his/her work cut out for him.


David Frederick  Journal Staff

Venezuela has been haunted for years now but there seems to be hope that the sinister apparition that has been plaguing it for fourteen years may soon be put to rest.  The president of Venezuela, the notorious Hugo Chavez, has been through an intense year of cancer treatment and this leads many to believe that his narcissistic reign may be coming to its close.  Chavez is well known for his early coups of the government and then later turning his brute radicalism into the Movement of the Fifth Republic.  After becoming president, Chavez has been at odds with the U.S. saying that we were “fighting terror with terror” in the Middle East after 9/11 and that we were behind the attempted coup of his position in 2002.

As Chavez is recovering, the people of Venezuela are entertaining the idea of ushering in a new president.  In case of such a situation, Chavez has named his successor in Nicolás Maduro, his vice president who served for six years as Venezuela’s foreign minister and heads a clique of ideologues loyal to Havana. Diosdado Cabello, a military veteran and long-time collaborator of Chavez’s and the National Assembly president was quick to stand up against that decision.  Cabello is vengeful for being pushed out of Chavez’s inner circle and appears to be willing to fight for the “kingdom.”

Obviously, Chavez isn’t going anywhere as of now, meaning Maduro is his “heir” and he will later win a special election that would make him the new president.  If he didn’t make it to take his oath of office, the role would be passed over to Cabello.  Just like every election, there are ridiculous amounts of cash being funneled in, seedy interests in narcotics and arms and most importantly the legitimacy of an honest election for the citizens.

Any of the viable options for who should claim the role of being an active president are not even options that the citizens have a say in. These fake elections might as well be a television show.  If this election doesn’t concern the public opinion, and it isn’t in their interests; then I ask one question: Why should this election even be important to the people of Venezuela if they hold no weight in it?

Now don’t get me wrong, every election is important and has gravity in the world but there isn’t even the illusion of public opinion surrounding this matter.  The corrupt extra curricular activities of Chavez, Cabello, Maduro, and the countless other figure heads of the Venezuelan government is only the tip of the iceberg.  Truly, the core of this article is based around the subtle passive bias of my opinion of how I believe Chavez has had his time in the sun.  The truth of the matter is that there isn’t a real viable option here. I do feel the best of a bad situation would be for Chavez to step down and for an actual election between Maduro and Cabello to occur, but as long as the Chavez factor is in play, nothing will change any time soon.