An thus the post-Chávez era begins. It is ironic than the man on your left, is a middle (upper?) class caraqueño, who joined the Liga Socialista and from there jumped to union leader of Caracas’s subway. On the right, is a lower middle class military technocrat, who was with Chavez in his conspiracies, but only ranked a minor technocratic job when Chavez´first term began. Maduro was ideologically trained, Diosdado was his own man. In time, both rose fast in the Chavista meritocracy, Diosdado became Minister and then VP, later Governor, Maduro went from President of the Assembly, to Foreign Minister and from that position, given his loyalty and less independent thinking, he ended up on top, Chavez’ designated heir apparent.
It could have been Rafael Ramirez ( also middle class), Vielma Mora, Arias Cardenas, but somehow, this middle class failed student topped all of them by being loyal and ideologically correct, even if he never wore a military uniform.
Others were simply left behind, like Chávez compadre Raul Baduel. He saved Chavez’ butt in 2002, but later he was too outspoken, removed as Minister of Defense and later jailed on corruption charges for his anti-referendum stance in 2007.
Which leaves us with Maduro.
And it is clear that over the last few months, Diosdado has been loyal. He has never said he should be acting President, even if the Constitution says he should. After fourteen years of not visiting Cuba, he went there three or four times in the last three months. And he has been quiet in the last few days. In fact, he was the one to announce that Maduro’s swearing in ceremony will be tomorrow at the Military Academy in an apparent sign of unity.
Maduro on the other hand, had said little since announcing Chávez’ death, up to today, when he announced that Chávez body will be held for seven days so everyone could see it and pay its respects. He went even further announcing that Chavez’ body would be embalmed and held at the Revolutionary Museum, ironically the site of Chávez biggest defeat in February 1992,
It is all part of the campaign. Maduro even suggested ” I am Chávez”, a clear sign of the level of insecurity of the inheritors of the revolution.
Unfortunately, Maduro does not have Chavez’ presence, while he faces tough decisions going forward in particular on the economy. He probably knows he does not have the good will, but think he can inherit it. Unfortunately, other Chavistas think they have more going for them than Maduro and that bodes badly for the stability of the country long term.
But for now, the show must go on (Chávez dixit) and Maduro will be Chavismo’s leader for a while. Unfortunately for Nicolas, the effort to win the election in October, together with the distortions in the economy, make the medium term economic future very difficult. Maduro likely understands this, He will likely be confrontational politically, but likely more pragmatic on the economy. It is no coincidence the US is sending former Representative William Delahunt who under the “Group of Boston” monicker, led meetings in Cape Cod between US and Venezuelan lawmakers when Maduro was President of the Assembly.
Unfortunately, what Maduro needs is even more profound in terms of the economy and we don’t think Maduro will take that step of trying to minimize controls and adjust the economy all at once. Which will likely come back to bite him in time.
At that time, it is unclear who may conspire or come out on top, but any scenario is just as likely as possible. I do not dare predict.
Indeed, the post Chavez era has begun.