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Issue Guide: Venezuela's Challenging Next Chapter

Author: Brianna Lee
Updated: April 15, 2013


Much is at stake as Venezuela assembles its next presidential administration after the March 2013 death of longtime president Hugo Chávez, including the fate of his "Bolivarian social revolution," control of the country's vast oil reserves, and relations with leftist allies in the region and beyond, like Iran and Syria. Chávez's hand-picked successor, former foreign minister and interim president Nicolas Maduro, won the election with just over 50 percent of the vote, but his more moderate opponent, Henrique Capriles, has demanded a recount. Analysts say Maduro's narrow victory places his mandate and the future of chavismo on shaky footing. Venezuela's next leader must confront a number challenges, among other things, the country's high crime rate, goods shortages, tenuous diplomatic relationships, and domestic political divisions. This issue guide provides background and analysis on the next chapter of the post-Chávez era.

Nicolas Maduro with a painting of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. (Photo: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Courtesy Reuters)

2013 Election: Nicolas Maduro vs. Henrique Capriles

Guardian: Under My Presidency, Chávez's Revolution Will Continue
Chávez's protégé Nicolas Maduro reflects on Hugo Chávez's transformative legacy and declares his intent to build toward "a new form of socialism for our times."

TIME: Even if Maduro Won, He Lost
Tim Padgett writes that Nicolas Maduro's unexpectedly slim victory leaves him with a strengthened opposition and internal party challenges, and demonstrates that Venezuelans now recognize the shortcomings of Chávez's reign.

Foreign Affairs: Maduro Moves Up
Maduro will have to tackle rampant crime, a distorted economy, and the country's fierce political polarization without the magnetism of Chávez's personality, writes Michael Penfold.

ABC News: What Maduro and Capriles Represent
Manuel Rueda outlines the basic platforms of both candidates in the April election.

AS/COA: What Will the Top Challenge Be for the Next Venezuelan Administration?
Five experts detail the challenges the next president of Venezuela will face after the fourteen-year reign of Hugo Chávez, including high crime rates, oil production, political disunity, and the economy.

Christian Science Monitor: Maduro Addresses a Topic Chávez Largely Avoided – Crime
Unlike his predecessor, Nicolas Maduro has emphasized Venezuela's security and crime problems, although he has largely remained close to Chávez's discourse on the subject, writes Rebecca Hanson of the Washington Office on Latin America.

Venezuela's Economy

WSJ: Venezuela's Economy Under Chávez, by the Numbers
Chávez's Venezuela was marked by heavy government spending, high inflation, food shortages, electric outages, and a drop in labor force participation--and it remains to be seen whether his successor will be able to manage the distortions, writes Charles Roth.

Al Jazeera: A Tale of Two Economies
Despite Venezuela's recent currency devaluation and soaring inflation, supporters of the government say their lives have improved under Chávez's economic policies, writes Chris Arsenault.

MercoPress: A Ticking Time Bomb Waits for Whoever Wins
Whoever wins the election must grapple with food shortages, insufficient funds to pay off the national debt, and further inflation, writes MercoPress.

Guardian: Nicolas Maduro Is Venezuela's Vote for Chavismo
Maduro's victory was secured largely by the successes of chavismo in raising Venezuelans' standard of living, and predictions of economic collapse in Venezuela are mistaken—but Maduro's slim victory should still serve as a wake-up call, writes Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Inter Press Service: Dependent on Venezuela's Oil Diplomacy
Venezuela's domestic economic challenges threaten the oil diplomacy championed by Hugo Chávez in the region, writes Mario Osava.

Domestic Political Divisions

Economist: Maduro's Pyrrhic Victory
The aftermath of the April election leaves Venezuela bitterly divided, and gives way to fierce challenges within Maduro's own party, writes the Economist.

Financial Times: Maduro Needs Military's Loyalty
Senior military officials, who make up probably the most crucial sector of the chavismo movement, do not have the same close connection with Maduro as they did with Chávez, writes Benedict Mander.

Reuters: Maduro Faces Tricky Post-Chávez Panorama
Nicolas Maduro lacks Chávez's charisma and the strong flow of petrodollars that propped up Chávez's rule, leading observers to suspect he may face trouble controlling divisions among chavistas, writes Brian Ellsworth.

Foreign Policy Implications

BBC: New Era for U.S.-Venezuela Relations?
CFR's Shannon O'Neil details the complicated and often tense relationship between the United States and Venezuela, and notes that anti-U.S. sentiment in the region is fading.

El Tiempo: What's Next for Venezuela?
Maduro's victory will be an opening for improved relations with the United States, but only if Caracas is interested in sustaining a relationship beyond the energy trade, writes Eric Farnsworth.

Folha de Sao Paulo: Washington Is Out of the Game in Caracas
Washington is a marginal actor during one of the most important transitional periods in Latin America of the last two decades, writes CFR's Julia Sweig.

Al-Jazeera: Venezuela Looks to China for Economic Boost
Chris Arsenault explains how Venezuela has looked to strengthen trade ties with China, although some experts warn of entering into an unsustainable debt cycle.

CRS: Hugo Chávez's Death: Implications for Venezuela and U.S. Relations
There may be an opportunity in the aftermath of the April election to take a new step toward renewing U.S.-Venezuelan relations, writes Latin American Affairs specialist Mark P. Sullivan.

Miami Herald: Venezuelan Oil Program Uncertainty Fuels Caribbean Concern
Chávez's Petrocaribe oil agreement with several Caribbean countries raises serious questions in the region as the Venezuela election approaches, writes Jacqueline Charles.

Foreign Affairs: So Long, Chávez
Hugo Chávez revived a dream of a leftist revolution in Latin America, but his polarizing actions contributed to regional fragmentation, writes Michael Shifter.

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