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After months of uncertainty and secrecy about his condition, Hugo Chávez passed away on March 5, leaving Venezuela in a deep political and economic crisis. On April 14, Venezuelans hit the polls for the second time in six months to elect the country’s new president.
AQ Online is your source for the latest post-election developments, as well as insights from bloggers on the country's political and economic outlook.
Plus, visit AS/COA Online for a explainer on Venezuela's 2013 presidential election.
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April 16, 2013 - AQ Daily Focus
Nicolás Maduro’s election victory was certified by the National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral—CNE) on Monday in the midst of claims by the Venezuelan opposition of electoral fraud during Sunday’s presidential election. Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has refused to recognize the outcome of the election and thousands of opposition members are protesting the results.
CNE President Tibisay Lucena declared the outcome of Sunday’s election “irreversible,” but opposition leaders, led by Capriles, have called on their followers to protest peacefully and demand the electoral authority’s total recount of the votes. “This is the moment of reason, not of emotion,” Capriles said, after Maduro accused the opposition of trying to undo the will of the country’s democratic majority.
April 16, 2013 - AQ Blog
By Juan Nagel
After narrowly defeating Henrique Capriles in a hotly-contested presidential election (Capriles is demanding a recount), Venezuelan President-elect Nicolás Maduro will soon have to turn to a more threatening foe: the nation’s economy.
In a time of high commodity prices, why is one of the world’s top oil exporters facing such dire straits?
April 15, 2013 - AQ Slideshow
By Romina Hendlin
In the early morning of April 14, Venezuelan voters went to the polls to decide whether Nicolás Maduro or Henrique Capriles Radonski would become the country's next president. Voter participation started slowly in several neighborhoods in eastern Caracas, but eventually, more than 78 percent of Venezuela's registered voters cast their ballots. With 99 percent of votes counted, Venezuela's Consejo Nacional Electoral (National Electoral Council—CNE) declared Maduro the winner by a margin of 1.6 percentage points (50.7 percent versus 49.1 percent of votes cast). This was the narrowest margin of victory in a Venezuelan election since 1968.
The following photos were taken from different polling centers in Caracas in the neighborhoods of Chacao, Los Chorros and Las Mercedes. Among them, a series of photos captures thousands of voters and spectators who gathered outside the Colegio Santo Tomás de Villanueva in Las Mercedes to catch a glimpse of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.
April 14, 2013 - AQ Blog
By Paula Ramon
Durante la última década los venezolanos han vivido cada contienda electoral como una batalla en la que se juegan la vida o la muerte. Tal vez influenciados por el peso del pasado libertario, o por continuar bajo la mirada de una docena de próceres cuyas efigies aún se alzan en la explanada militar que antecede al principal fuerte de la capital, en la Venezuela de estos días los ciudadanos están inmersos en “una lucha” o “una cruzada”, dependiendo de la tendencia política de preferencia.
Este domingo 14 de abril, casi 15 millones de electores decidieron quien gobernará el país por los próximos seis años. A 39 días de la muerte del ex presidente, Hugo Chávez, los venezolanos se debatieron entre continuar el legado del polémico líder, dando un voto de confianza en su “hijo” político, o iniciar un viraje de la mano del opositor Henrique Capriles Radonski, quien ya fuese derrotado por Chávez en los pasados comicios presidenciales de octubre de 2012.
April 12, 2013 - AQ Blog
By Juan Victor Fajardo
The whirlwind presidential campaign between Nicolás Maduro and Henrique Capriles Radonski is now officially over in Venezuela. After a rapid 10 days of marches and packed political rallies, the campaign closed Thursday night as hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans gathered in streets across the country in massive displays of support for each of the rival candidates.
Maduro, the chosen successor of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez who inherits Chávez’s ruling political party, the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela—PSUV), closed his campaign in Caracas, filling seven of the largest avenues in the capital city with supporters from all over the country.
April 12, 2013 - AQ Web Exclusive
By Javier Corrales
Just days ahead of the first post-Chávez election since 1998, Venezuela’s opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, has made electoral irregularities a major issue in his campaign. Claiming that Venezuela’s leading electoral body, the Consejo Nacional Electoral (National Electoral Council—CNE), is nothing but an appendage of the government, Capriles said that his campaign has filed more than 100 complaints of electoral irregularities.
In observing the future of democracy in a post-Chávez Venezuela, it will be vital to observe whether this pattern of electoral irregularities and partial reform will be changed by whichever new government comes next.
April 12, 2013 - AQ Blog
By Manuel Avendano
El 8 de diciembre de 2012, algo cambió en Venezuela. En una alocución pública nacional, Hugo Chávez anunció al país su partida a Cuba para someterse a una operación delicada, justo dos meses después de haber sido reelecto como presidente. Intuyendo lo que podría suceder ante su ausencia, designó como candidato presidencial de su partido a Nicolás Maduro, quien en ese momento fungía como vicepresidente de la República.
Todo parecía indicar que pronto habría nuevas elecciones. Tres meses después, el 5 de marzo de 2013, se anunció el fallecimiento de Hugo Chávez y el inicio de un nuevo período electoral presidencial en menos de 12 meses.
April 2, 2013 - AQ Blog
By Santiago Fontiveros
The day Steve Jobs died after a much-publicized battle with cancer, Apple’s shares rose in what analysts called “a tribute” to the company’s late founder. The next year, Apple’s stock continued its climb, making Apple the most valued company ever as a measure of market capitalization. Jobs’ successor, Tim Cook, had long been preparing for this moment, assuring the market that he could handle the company after Jobs was gone.
Yet, as time goes by, Apple, its shareholders, Cook, and millions of Apple customers around the world are painfully reminded that there can only be one Steve Jobs.
April 2, 2013 - AQ Daily Focus
Tuesday marks the official start of Venezuela’s 10-day campaign ahead of the April 14 presidential election. The election will be a choice between interim President Nicolás Maduro and Miranda State Governor Henrique Capriles—both of whom have been unofficially campaigning for weeks.
Maduro, Chávez’ political heir, has vowed to honor the late president’s socialist legacy and is campaigning on a spiritual message, committing to follow the steps of his “father.” This election poses a new challenge for chavismo, which for the first time will attempt to retain the presidency without the charismatic presence of its late leader.
March 19, 2013 - AQ Daily Focus
Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Rodonski said on Monday that if he wins the presidential election on April 14, he will stop sending 100,000 barrels a day of oil to Cuba and other countries in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). “Not one more drop of oil will go to help finance the Castro regime,” Capriles said at a political rally in the Zulia state.
March 15, 2013 - AQ Slideshow
By Juan Victor Fajardo
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’ body is being moved today from the Military Academy of Caracas to the city’s military museum, marking the end of a nine-day open casket service that has drawn thousands of the late president’s followers to the capital city.
The lines of people waiting to get a glimpse of Chávez’ body have blocked some the main avenues in Caracas for nine consecutive days. On average, Chávez’ followers have had to wait more than eight hours to approach the casket for mere seconds, purchasing pictures, t-shirts and other souvenirs of the president at makeshift stands that clutter the site of the academy.
March 8, 2013 - AQ Blog
By Diego Moya-Ocampos
Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez has died of cancer, leaving a power vacuum that will be hard to fill in the oil-rich country. After Vice President Nicolás Maduro’s announcement of the president’s death, Minister of Foreign Affairs Elías Jaua announced on March 6 that elections would be called in 30 days, as the constitution stipulates, and clarified that Maduro would maintain executive powers until then.
March 8, 2013 - AQ Daily Focus
More than 30 heads of state traveled to Caracas for the funeral of Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela since 1999 and the architect of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) who passed away on Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer. Upon his arrival, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, "he was a dear friend of all nations worldwide; he was the emotional pillar for all the revolutionary and freedom-seeking people of the region and the world."
March 7, 2013 - AQ Blog
By Jenny Manrique
Una versión de este artículo se publicó originalmente en el portal Infobae América
“Con profundo dolor, la Delegación de Paz de las FARC-EP, se une al duelo de los bolivarianos de Venezuela y del mundo ante la noticia descorazonadora, triste, del fallecimiento del Comandante Presidente, Hugo Chávez.”
Las condolencias de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) fueron enviadas entre el maremágnum de pésames que el mundo entero dio a Venezuela: Sin embargo, no pasaron desapercibidas en el contexto político colombiano ante la innegable influencia que tuvo el fallecido líder bolivariano sobre el conflicto que azota al país hace medio siglo.
Grief mixed with uncertainty over Cuba's future on Wednesday as the island mourned the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Granma, the Communist Party newspaper, changed the color of its masthead from red to black for the first time to commemorate the loss of the regime's closest ally, and dedicated six of its eight pages to Chávez' life. In a television addressed to the nation, the Cuban government pledged "resolved and unwavering support for the Bolivarian Revolution in these difficult days" and ordered an official mourning period through Friday.
March 6, 2016 - AQ Blog
By Juan Víctor Fajardo
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who died of cancer on Tuesday in Caracas, will be remembered by some as a tireless man, as a tireless dreamer, who led and designed a socialist project for Venezuela meant to empower the country’s poor and to deeply transform the social and moral fabric of the oil-rich nation.
He will be remembered by some as an unconventional man of epic historical import; a military man from a humble, rural household who rose to the highest political office in the country; a man who developed, in his 14 years as president, an almost sacred bond with the poor and the voiceless; a showman; a jester; an international figure of long, passionate speeches; a man who, in life, had already achieved the presence and size of a legend.
March 6, 2013 - AQ Daily Focus
Latin Americans are mourning the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who passed away at age 58 on Tuesday. Just hours before Chávez died, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro had accused Venezuela’s enemies of “attacking” the leader with cancer and expelled two U.S. Embassy officials for allegedly conspiring against the deceased president. The president’s body will be taken in a procession through Caracas to the Military Academy where it will lie in state until his funeral on Friday.
Chávez Leaves a Mess
By Juan Nagel
Hugo Chávez died today at the age of 58. While many of his obituaries will focus on his voluminous political legacy, the day-to-day issues he leaves behind are enormously complex. Eventually, they are sure to overshadow any historical discussion about the man.
Politically, his movement is orphaned. Chávez was not only president of Venezuela, he was also president of his party, commanding every detail—from which candidates ran where to which judges had to be fired. His tenuous political coalition—made up of community leaders, the military, old-style communists and entrepreneurs looking to make a quick buck—was only held together by the sheer force of the president’s charisma, which punished dissent swiftly and mercilessly. With Chávez gone, it’s not clear who will make the decisions, or who will keep the tensions among these factions at bay.
March 6, 2013 - AQ Blog
By Christopher Sabatini
I must admit, I was shocked when the e-mail a colleague had written me flashed on my desktop yesterday. “Chávez is dead.” It wasn’t like I wasn’t expecting it. But like the Chavista advisors that staged the bizarre, incoherent press conference shortly before they announced the Venezuelan President’s death, I was oddly taken aback.
In my defense, unlike them I didn’t have the responsibility—or advantage—of preparing the last near-three months. Amazingly, despite the lead time, in what was later revealed to really be their first post-Chávez press conference, Vice President Nicolás Maduro and the cabinet seemed completely out of sync—first an interminable series of introductions and then incredible allegations of U.S. intervention. And then—almost as an afterthought hours later—the announcement that Chávez was dead.
March 5, 2013 - AQ Blog
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has died, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro announced this evening. Since the president’s return home from Cuba on February 18, Venezuelan supporters have gathered to pray for the health of the president, which has been in decline for weeks. The death of the 58 year-old Chávez, who was re-elected to a fourth term as president last October, ends his fourteen years as president of Venezuela.
Over the weekend, Chávez opponents gathered to demonstrate in Caracas and demand news on the president’s health, which they said was being concealed by the Venezuelan government. Chávez had not been seen in public since a December 11 cancer surgery in Havana. Members of Venezuela’s opposition movement, including Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles, have accused the government of lying to the public about the president’s health.
February 26, 2013 - AQ Blog
By Diego Moya-Ocampos
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez remains in a Caracas military hospital, prompting continued speculation in Venezuela and abroad about eventual succession and concerns over political stability—as well as uncertainty about who is in charge.
The president’s uncertain situation comes at a time of significant social and economic difficulty in Venezuela. The government’s announcement on February 2 of a 32 percent currency devaluation and the elimination of the bond-exchange market rate is likely to generate further inflationary pressures and shortages of essential goods. Meanwhile, the opposition is trying to build political capital over growing popular discontent against the devaluation, which will affect the purchasing capacity of Venezuelans.
January 20, 2013 - AQ Daily Focus
Bolivian President Evo Morales stopped in Caracas on Tuesday to visit President Hugo Chávez on route to New York City for the inauguration of the International Year of Quinoa. President Morales was greeted at the international airport by Venezuelan Foreign Vice-Minister Temir Porras, but members of the Foreign Ministry declined to comment on his agenda while in the country. The ailing president ,who had been in Cuba since his latest cancer operation last December, returned to Venezuela early Monday morning and is continuing cancer treatment at the military hospital in the country’s capital.
February 14, 2013 - AQ Daily Focus
After the Venezuelan government announced its intention to devalue its bolívar currency late last week, the 32-percent shift in its exchange rate—from 4.3 to 6.3 bolívars to the dollar—went into effect yesterday. It is Venezuela’s fifth devaluation in nine years; the previous devaluation occurred in January 2010.
Janary 30, 2013 - AQ Daily Focus
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) voiced concern on Tuesday over the increasing trend in violence within Venezuela’s prisons. The office called for an investigation into a clash between inmates and National Guard troops at Uribana prison in Barquisimeto last Friday that left 61 inmates dead and 120 injured. OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville attributed the violence to poor prison conditions including overcrowding, lack of basic services and widespread access to firearms that were “exacerbated by judicial delays and excessive resort to pre-trial detention.
January 23, 2013 - AQ Daily Focus
Thousands of members of both Hugo Chávez’ Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) and the opposition are marching in Caracas today in simultaneous demonstrations since January 23 marks the end of Venezuela’s 1945-1958 military dictatorship. However, this year the date has acquired a new meaning for each side of the political spectrum. For members of the PSUV, today’s demonstration is an opportunity to show their solidarity with Chávez, who is recovering from cancer surgery in Cuba. Meanwhile, the opposition plans to protest the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s January 8 resolution to delay the president’s inauguration, a decision they say is unconstitutional.
Venezuelan Communications and Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said yesterday that Hugo Chávez recently met in Cuba with Venezuela’s newly-appointed foreign minister, Elías Jaua. Still, great uncertainty surrounds the question of when Chávez will return to Venezuela. More than a month has passed since the president's last public appearance, which was prior to his cancer surgery in mid-December.
January 16, 2013 - AQ Web Exclusive
Hugo Chávez engineered an electoral budget boom on steroids to win the 2012 presidential election. His economic strategy resulted in a significant appreciation of the real exchange rate, an increase in imports to a historical peak, and a considerable increase in public wages. Facing a strong contender in Henrique Capriles—and the limits to his campaign effort imposed by his illness—he resorted to the proven strategy of pouring money into the pockets of his poorest constituents. This is the same strategy used very effectively in the 2004 and 2006 electoral challenges but one that will eventually have dramatic economic consequences.
Beginning in the second half of 2011 the electoral boom cycle began with a dramatic increase in money supply and public expenditures. Six months later the results were visible: Chávez’ popularity increased by more than 10 percentage points in all opinion polls. Many political observers mistakenly attributed this surge in support to sympathy from the announcement of his cancer or to the launch of Mision Vivienda, an ambitious public housing program. But, in reality, the main source of the president’s popularity was the increase in the consumption capacity of the poor—a feat that is only possible due to oil-fueled public expenditures and the short-term macroeconomic boost generated by the manipulation of monetary, fiscal, exchange rate, and wage policies.
But, with the president in Cuba for the last month and a crisis of leadership at home, how will the government face its eventual economic reckoning?
The economic challenges are staggering. In 2012, the government spent about 51 percent of GDP—the highest level in the region—by taking advantage of high oil prices and its unprecedented control over government revenues, the financial system and the Central Bank. In the year leading up to the election, total government spending increased by more than 40 percent in real terms, similar to the increase in 2006 during the previous presidential election. This spending binge led to the highest public sector deficit in history (about 17 percent of GDP)—an astonishing deficit in the middle of an oil price boom.
January 15, 2013 - AQ Daily Recap
January 14, 2013 - AS/COA Video
Watch a video of a January 14 roundtable in Washington DC on prospects and possible scenarios for change in Venezuela. Panelists included:
January 10, 2013 - AQ Video
Americas Quarterly Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini spoke to Voz de América (VOA) reporter Celia Mendoza in a report that aired Wednesday about Venezuela’s uncertain future as the ailing President Hugo Chávez’ ability to govern the country remains in doubt.
Chávez remains in Cuba, recuperating from his fourth cancer-related surgery since 2011, and has not been seen in public since early December. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan National Assembly and Supreme Court have announced that the president’s inauguration, scheduled for Thursday, January 10, can be legally postponed until Chávez is well enough to resume governing—though the political opposition claims that doing so is unconstitutional.
Sabatini criticized the Venezuelan government for its failure to provide meaningful details about the current state of Chávez’ health. “President Chávez is not being open and transparent about his treatment, and that is a good symbol of the confusion that exists in Venezuela, as well as the lack of transparency and honesty of the government toward Venezuelan citizens,” Sabatini said. “That generates a lot of uncertainty and questions throughout the region.”
January 10, 2013 - AQ Blog
An abridged version of this article originally appeared on January 10, 2013 in La Tercera.
La decisión está tomada. Cuenta con el apoyo total del partido de gobierno, los militares, y las cortes. El 10 de enero, la República Bolivariana de Venezuela se convertirá oficialmente en la primera república bicéfala de América.
El presidente en ejercicio y re-electo Hugo Chávez convalece secretamente en la Habana, luchando contra “nuevas complicaciones” surgidas a raíz de su cuarta operación contra un cáncer que también es secreto. La constitución exige que el 10 de enero termine el mandato del gobierno actual (Chávez III), y tome posesión un nuevo gobierno (Chávez IV). Chávez no podrá presentarse a su gran ceremonia, y la idea de enviar al Tribunal Supremo a la Habana para juramentarlo por fin ha sido desechada por impráctica, aparte de vergonzosa para la soberanía de Venezuela y la dignidad del paciente que ni respirar puede.
La solución a este dilema de presidente-electo pero impresentable será no respetar la constitución. La juramentación que la constitución obliga será postergada. Con ello, un gobierno en ejercicio en las Américas ha declarado que tiene el poder de extender su tiempo en el poder, cosa que sólo los chavistas consideran un acto democrático. Para ellos, lo único democrático es respetar la soberanía del pueblo, que re-eligió a Chávez en octubre, cuando todavía decía que estaba sano. Vivo, muerto o enfermo, hay que respetar la “continuidad administrativa” de la revolución, dicen los chavistas. Lo demás es una “formalidad.”
Los chavistas están convencidos que con la decisión de no juramentar a nadie están garantizando la continuidad de la revolución, pero no ven el riesgo político al que se están exponiendo. Sin un presidente juramentado, quedarán dos figuras grandes dentro del chavismo disputándose el poder: el vicepresidente y canciller del (no-saliente) gobierno Nicolás Maduro y el presidente electo de la Asamblea Nacional Diosdado Cabello. Estas dos cabezas han querido dar muestra de unidad, pero quién sabe hasta cuándo. Por ahora, en lo único que han estado de acuerdo es que ninguno de ellos debe ser juramentado presidente—veto mutuo.
January 10, 2013 - AQ Daily Focus
Though Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez will not be present, Uruguayan President José Mujica, Bolivian President Evo Morales, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega will be in Caracas today for the Venezuelan leader’s intended—and now postponed—inauguration.
As the ailing Chávez remains in Cuba recovering from a respiratory infection that followed his December 11 cancer surgery, hemispheric well-wishers are arriving in Venezuela to express support for the president, who was re-elected to a third six-year term as president in October despite concerns that he could soon become too ill to rule the country.
Vice President Nicolás Maduro said yesterday that Venezuelan officials have planned an event in honor of Chávez, who has not been seen in public for about a month. Chávez’ Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela—PSUV) said that it would convene a rally in front of the presidential palace. Meanwhile, Henrique Capriles, Chávez’ opponent in last year’s presidential elections, urged heads of state not to attend the proceedings.
Yesterday, the Venezuelan Supreme Court announced that Chávez’ absence from Venezuela on the date of his intended inauguration was legally permissible and would have no impact on his claim to the presidency. Supreme Court President Luisa Estella Morales rejected opposition claims that postponing the president’s swearing-in ceremony until after January 10—the inauguration date stipulated in the constitution—would violate Venezuelan law.
January 9, 2013 - AQ Daily Recap
On Wednesday, a day before Hugo Chávez was scheduled to be sworn in for a third six-year presidential term, Venezuelan Supreme Court President Luisa Estela Morales announced that the inauguration can legally be postponed. The following items summarize the Court’s decision:
1) The president has been authorized by the National Assembly to be absent from the country.
2) The president’s absence is not considered “temporary”, as expressed under article 234 of the Bolivarian Constitution. It will not be considered as such unless specified by an official presidential decree.
3) The president’s absence is not considered “absolute’, as expressed under article 233 of the Bolivarian Constitution. In other words, the president of the National Assembly will not assume his mandate as indicated in the Constitution.
4) An inauguration is not considered necessary because there is “continuity”. In other words, since the incumbent was re-elected in October 7, the inauguration ceremony is not mandatory.
5) The inauguration will take place once the motive that is delaying it—the president’s poor health— no longer exists.
6) The current government will continue to carry out its functions. Vice President Nicolás Maduro will continue to fulfill the presidential duties for as long as 180 days, at which point the National Assembly will decide whether Chávez’ absence should be considered “permanent.”
The decision was followed by a heated constitutional debate between government officials and the opposition. Opposition leaders claim that the government is violating the constitution by postponing the date and by failing to disclose full information on the president’s health. Hugo Chávez hasn’t spoken publicly in a month since his fourth surgery performed in Cuba in December.
January 9, 2013 - AQ Blog
As Venezuela deals with a constitutional crisis, ordinary Venezuelans may be excused for not keeping up with the developments. They are too busy trying to find basic staples.
It has become increasingly difficult in Venezuela to find essential commodities such as sugar, cooking oil and milk. Corn flour, used to make traditional arepas, is easier to find in Miami than in Caracas. Even certain medicines are becoming hard to find.
The government has responded in typical fashion. It has blamed hoarders, and promised swift action to deal with them. At the same time, it denies scarcity exists, while it promises to continue “looking into the issue.”
The cause of scarcity lies with the government. After turning on the public spending spigot last year to ensure Hugo Chávez’ re-election, the fiscal deficit reached an astonishing 15 percent of GDP. With all that fresh money in the economy, imports soared, causing severe problems in the nation’s ports. In Venezuela, where even gasoline is imported, this is a huge deal.
January 8, 2013 - AQ Daily Focus
The Venezuelan Catholic Church said on Monday that President Hugo Chávez must attend his inauguration when his term ends on Thursday. The country's leftist leadership plans to indefinitely delay the inauguration to allow Chávez time to return from Havana, where he is undergoing treatment for an unspecified type of cancer. But Monsignor Diego Padron, head of Venezuela's Conference of Bishops, said that delaying the ceremony would be a morally unacceptable violation of the constitution.”
Chávez, 58, has not been seen in public since he traveled to Cuba for his fourth cancer surgery nearly a month ago—the longest absence in his 14-year presidency. Given Chávez’ weakened state, Attorney-General Cilia Flores said Sunday that the swearing-in can take place at a later date. But Monsignor Padron said that a delayed inauguration would be unconstitutional, saying that “to alter the constitution to attain a political objective is morally unacceptable." Meanwhile the opposition has called for massive street protests if the government does not respect Thursday’s deadline.
During Chávez’ absence, Nicolás Maduro, the former foreign minister who was named vice president in October, has been running the country. The constitution stipulates that National Assembly President—Diosdado Cabello, who was re-elected to the post over the weekend,—act as president if Chávez is declared incapacitated before Thursday, and that Maduro would become head of state if Chávez is declared incapacitated after Thursday.
December 19, 2012 - AQ Web Exclusive
While President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela remains in Cuba recovering from his fourth cancer surgery on the island, millions of his supporters delivered a solid political victory for his party in the country’s regional elections on December 16.
Of the 23 governorships that exist in Venezuela, the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party—PSUV) won at least 19, extending its political supremacy in the country and taking four of eight states previously held by the opposition.
What the country faces, at this point, is a political map painted red, with the isolated, though key, exceptions of the states of Miranda, Lara and Amazonas—and possibly Bolívar, where Andrés Velásquez, the narrowly-defeated opposition candidate, has formally contested the results of the election.
With or without a reversal in Bolívar, the opposition’s defeat is clear and potentially devastating. But as Chávez opponents reckon with the results, it is still unclear just how bad things will get for the opposition moving forward.
December 10, 2012 - AQ Web Exclusive
After much speculation President Hugo Chávez announced on December 8 that his cancer was back (for the second time in a year), and that he now had a person in mind to succeed him—Nicolás Maduro, the minister of foreign affairs who was elevated to vice president in October 2012.
Designating Maduro as the official successor was, as political scientist María Teresa Romero said, both expected and surprising. Anointing Maduro was expected since he had become Chávez’ closest political figure, frequently seen right next to the president, especially when traveling to Cuba for treatment. The constitution also says that Maduro, as vice-president by special designation of Chávez himself, takes charge if the president is ever permanently absent from office.
If Chávez is unable to complete his new six-year term within the first four years, the constitution stipulates that a new election must be called within 30 days. In this case, it is now clear that Maduro would be the preferred candidate for Chávez’ Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV).
The Venezuelan political system, which is a mixture of democracy and autocracy, has now officially entered the moment of succession—a process that varies significantly between the two political systems. In democracies, successions are determined by constitutions, while in autocracies, successions are always indeterminate and fraught with uncertainty and the potential for crisis.
Still, if the constitution is clear about this process, and Chávez was already frank about whom he wanted for vice-president, why bother to interrupt his “urgent” treatment in Cuba, postpone surgery for a few days, and return to Venezuela to make the announcement that Maduro was his preferred successor? To be finally so public and emphatic about his choice was a shock. Why not tweet the news from Cuba, or better yet, remain quiet, as he had been doing thus far?
Spring 2011 issue - AQ Article
The uncertainties surrounding Venezuela and President Hugo Chávez make it very difficult to discern the truth about what is going on in the country. For example, how does one explain the underperformance of Venezuela’s bonds in the past four years, in the middle of an unprecedented increase in oil prices? Or the market’s deteriorating confidence in Venezuela despite the fact that is has improved its liquidity and capacity to pay?
Venezuela’s oil and energy policies, which are at the heart of national politics as well as the national economy, are often misinterpreted. But it is important for analysts to focus on several key aspects of the country’s economic policymaking, including the current and projected levels of oil production, the cost of Venezuelan petro-diplomacy in Central America and the Caribbean, and the opportunity cost of the domestic gasoline price. An analysis of Venezuela’s energy and economic policies reveals some surprising conclusions, but one thing is certain: do not expect any changes before the presidential election in December 2012.
How Much Does PDVSA Export?
A variety of methods can be used to calculate Venezuela’s oil exports. Oil export figures reported by the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) and the state-owned petroleum company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) claim total oil production of 3.1 million barrels per day (mbd) in the first half of 2010, with exports of 2.4 mbd—down from 2.8 mbd in exports from the same period in 2009. At this level, oil exports generated approximately $61 billion last year.
But figures from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) contradict Venezuela’s. OPEC calculations claim an average oil production of only 2.3 mbd for 2010, which implies gross exports of 1.6 mbd. PDVSA has constantly said that the source of this difference is that the OPEC figures do not fully account for production in the Orinoco Belt—a territory with large deposits of extra heavy crude oil—along with condensates and other products.
Given the nearly 1 mbd difference in the Venezuelan versus OPEC figures, PDVSA hired British firm Inspectorate to verify its level of oil exports. Since 2009, Inspectorate has certified net oil exports, defining them at 2.3 mbd on average during 2010—a number close to the official figures.