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Venezuela left sweeps elections

John Bell

January 2, 2013

Even as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s cancer had worsened, candidates from his Socialist Party took 20 out of 23 state governorships in mid-December elections.
Henriqué Capriles, head of the right-wing opposition won his seat, but only by a narrow margin. The US and the Venezuelan business class had hoped for a much better showing, to suggest that sweeping reforms brought in by Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution” would not outlive him.
Chavez remains in a Cuban hospital, and the chances of his being able to resume office are slim.
Chavez’s Vice President, Nicolas Maduro will likely be his successor. News has emerged that direct talks between Maduro and US State Department officials have taken place, with the stated aim of reenlisting a post-Chavez Venezuela in the “war on drugs”.
The US may want to hedge its bets, especially in light of the strong pro-Chavez vote. Outright attempts to overthrow the Socialist Party government could lead to civil war and economic chaos. Spurred on by oil exports, the Venezuelan economy grew by over 5 per cent in 2012, and the Guardian newspaper reports that it had the world’s best performing stock exchange, up 300 per cent.
No one knows what will happen at the top with Chavez’s death. There may be a power struggle to challenge Maduro. Whoever takes the reins could choose between maintaining a confrontational position toward Washington, and placating the US by gradually weakening popular gains in housing, education and health care.
One thing is certain–and the strong election results show it: the people of Venezuela want the improvements in their lives to continue and expand. It is they, not the stock market, not the State Department and not even Maduro, who will have the last word.

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