What Now for Venezuela?

Power struggles loom after Chavez death

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 6, 2013 5:25 AM CST | Updated Mar 6, 2013 7:48 AM CST

(Newser) – Venezuelans now have a final answer to questions about Hugo Chavez's health, but the leader's death has presented the country with a host of new uncertainties. Vice President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's chosen successor, is leading the country for now, but an election will be called within 30 days. It's not clear whether Maduro will inherit enough of his predecessor's popularity to keep the Chavismo movement alive and defeat an opposition coalition expected to be led by Henrique Capriles, who lost an election to Chavez in October.

Maduro may be able to defeat an opposition no longer united by hatred of Chavez, though he may face a power struggle with powerful rival Diosdado Cabello, who has many allies in the military, reports the Guardian. It describes Chavez's relatives as a "wild card"—his brother and two adult daughters "have the power to help unite or fracture Chavismo." Whoever wins will have to deal with rising unrest, a deeply troubled economy, and a bitterly divided nation, the New York Times notes. The US says it is open to restoring diplomatic relations no matter who wins the upcoming election, though a White House spokesman stresses the vote must be "free and fair and credible," CNN reports. Before the battle to replace Chavez kicks off in earnest, there will be seven days of national mourning punctuated by a Friday morning funeral expected to be one of the biggest Latin America has ever seen.

Chavez supporters gather in Caracas' Bolivar square to mourn his death.
Chavez supporters gather in Caracas' Bolivar square to mourn his death.   (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
A Chavez cries as she holds a sign that reads in Spanish I am Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela.
A Chavez cries as she holds a sign that reads in Spanish "I am Chavez" in Caracas, Venezuela.   (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
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