Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s inauguration is less than a week away, but with his health declining, many are asking what will happen if he is unable to lead the country.
According to Dr. George Ciccariello-Maher, an assistant professor in Drexel’s Department of History & Politics and a leading expert on Venezuelan politics, if Chávez dies, the Constitution requires that the vice president (in this case, Nicolas Maduro), or in some cases the president of the National Assembly, take over until elections are called. Chávez has also suggested that Venezuelan then elect Maduro as president. Ciccariello-Maher claims that this raises more questions than answers, as there’s no telling whether the considerably less charismatic Maduro will be able to galvanize Chávez’s poor base. If the Chávistas lose power, it could ignite a civil war.
Ciccariello-Maher says that the U.S. is watching this situation closely. The Obama administration has sent more aid to the anti-Chávistas than even Bush did, but despite their best efforts, Chávez has remained popular. While the administration would like to see Chávez out, it is unclear whether they consider this worth a civil war that would certainly disrupt oil supplies.
Members of the news media who are interested in speaking with Ciccariello-Maher further, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can address Chávez’s ongoing battle with cancer, what is known about his potential successor and what new leadership in Venezuela could mean for the nation, the region and the world. His new book We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution will be released this spring.