The death of Hugo Chávez was a shock to everyone in Venezuela. After months fighting cancer, it seemed like the people still believed he would be able to recover. Thousands gathered in the main square of Caracas and outside the military hospital where he died; desolate, uncertain, and afraid of what is going to happen now. Today’s NY Times’ article “Chávez Dies, Leaving Sharp Divisions in Venezuela”:
“As darkness fell, somber crowds congregated in the main square of Caracas and at the military hospital, with men and women crying openly in sadness and fear about what would come next.”
The vice president, Nicolás Maduro, shows interest in governing in a similar manner to how Chávez led the country. His speeches, and the way he acts, portray how he intends to follow the footsteps of his predecessor. The issue here is that Mr. Maduro isn’t Chávez. The people of Venezuela had a special connection with Hugo Chávez, who led with by charismatic authority. Despite his efforts to show the world that he had legal rational authority by holding regular elections (also going through the trouble of changing the country’s constitution to be able to be re-elected as many times as he wished), it was clear to the world that his power came from his relationship with the people. The man who fought for the rise of South America against the “tyrant” United States. He was considered a hero by many, compared to Simón Bolívar who fought for their independence, one who would show the world that Venezuela was more than a small country in South America. Mr. Maduro might pretend to be just like Chávez, but the people of Venezuela know that he isn’t Chavez, they will not treat him like Chávez, and they will not respond to his government the way they did to Chávez.
So a question is raised. Will the people of Venezuela support the decisions made by Mr. Maduro? And if yes; Will he change the relationship that Venezuela has with the United States? In today’s NY Times’ article, “A Leader Cries in Venezuela, ‘I am Chávez’, as U.S. Seeks Clues on Policy”, a State Department official said.
“Maduro is just beginning to govern and create his own identity, I don’t believe we had ever concluded one way or another whether he was a moderating influence. Our effort to reach out and create a more productive relationship was not based on a belief that he would be easier to deal with necessarily.”
It sounds like the situation won’t change as fast as some would like it to, but U.S. diplomats seem to be very optimistic to the fact that Maduro has already been negotiating with them, and are confident that soon the situation will be normalized in Venezuela.