The Morning After Hugo Chavez's Death: What Happens Next For Venezuela And Its Allies?

Mar 6, 2013

Venezuelans in Doral celebrate the death of Hugo Chavez.
Credit Andrea Torres / Miami Herald

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is dead. Public reactions from South Florida's sizeable Venezuelan ex-pat community were jubilant on Tuesday night. In Venezuela, less so.

The big question this morning: what happens next for Venezuela and its allies?

Andres Oppenheimer, columnist for the Miami Herald, predicts that this is the beginning of the end for Venezuela’s influence in Latin America and beyond:

“When he took office in 1999, oil prices hovered around $9 a gallon. When oil prices started rising gradually to more than $80 a barrel in the years that followed, Chávez started bankrolling loyalist politicians in Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador and other Latin American countries, and ultimately built his ALBA bloc of Latin American allies that followed his narcissist-Leninist model. … Many of his grandiose money pledges never materialized — like a pipeline that was supposed to go from Caracas to Buenos Aires, which skeptics at the time branded the “Hugoduct” — and some of his pledges for huge infrastructure projects in Africa and Asia drew criticism at home, where roads and bridges were crumbling.”

Meanwhile, Juan Tamayo of the Miami Herald looks at what Chavez's death might mean for Cuba

The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has given free rein to fears that Cuba will plunge into an economic abyss again if Caracas halts its subsidies, estimated at well above the massive aid that the Soviet Union once provided to Havana. … Venezuela also is now by far the island’s single largest commercial partner, with bilateral trade officially pegged at $6 billion in 2010 ... and likely one of its largest sources of hard currency.

The British newspaper The Guardian has this provocative story about what happens next with the presidency in Venezuela, “After Chávez's funeral, who gets Venezuela's poisoned chalice?”

For 14 years he dominated like a Colossus and now that he has fallen, so have the old rules and certitudes. ... The world's biggest oil reserves, a troubled economy and a deeply polarised population of 29 million people are the ambiguous prizes for whoever claims the presidential palace of Miraflores.

First, however, will come Chávez's funeral, likely to be a vast, clamorous affair to rival Evita's. To the millions who revered him – a third of the country, according to some polls – a messiah has fallen, and their grief will be visceral. To the millions who detested him as a thug and charlatan, it will be occasion to bid, vocally or discreetly, good riddance.

When the next election is held, Enrique Capriles will likely be the opposition candidate against Vice President Nicolás Maduro. Capriles is governor of the state of Miranda. Maduro allegedly has been keeping close tabs on Capriles and his travels. From the New York Times:

“We have him closely monitored,” Vice President Nicolás Maduro said Saturday of the opposition leader, Henrique Capriles Radonski.

“I have all the data, exactly where he is in Manhattan, in New York, at this moment,” Mr. Maduro said on government-run television, looking at his cellphone as if checking information sent to him in a text message or an e-mail.

What was your reaction when you learned Hugo Chavez had died? Leave us a comment below or tell us on Twitter @WLRN.