Uncertainty looms over a Venezuela without Chavez
Not that his death has left Venezuela in limbo, experts say. The past fourteen years have seen Venezuela turn into a stable state in terms of socio-economic development. Venezuela’s oil sector brought hefty funds that were injected by Chavez into the construction of residential houses, hospitals and schools. Also, he used these funds to stabilize prices and grant subsidies to farmers and low-income citizens. Under Chavez, gasoline prices in Venezuela stood at slightly more than two US cents per liter. Small wonder, ordinary people defended Chavez with might and main, something that may help Nicolas Maduro win in the upcoming elections.
Boris Martynov, deputy head of the Moscow-based Institute for Latin American Studies, says that Venezuela is unlikely to face political upheavals in the near future.
"Power transfer in Venezuela is unlikely in the immediate future," Martynov says, referring to Chavez’s supporters who are currently calling the shots. "I think that the situation in Venezuela will remain stable in years to come despite the opposition’s attempts to come to power," Martynov concludes.
During the 2012 presidential elections in Venezuela, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles gained almost 44 percent of the vote, while Chavez obtained more than 54 percent. Now his supporters will certainly have tougher times ahead trying to secure victory in the forthcoming elections.
A charismatic officer-turned-politician, Chavez became the President of Venezuela in 1998. Shortly after, he announced the beginning of the construction of ‘Bolivarian socialism of the 21st century. Apart from performing presidential duties, Chavez wrote poems and acted as a host on Venezuelan television. Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the Russia in Global Affairs journal, says that although many expected Chavez to become second Fidel Castro or Che Guevara, Chavez never lived up to these expectations.
"Chavez’s uniqueness is related to the fact that in the 1990s, the world was in need of political variety, something that saw the light of day after Chavez came to power in Venezuela. He was quick to announce the creation of socialism of the 21st century, which prompted many to hail him as new Fidel or Che Guevara. Even though Chavez failed to become second Fidel, he won kudos from all those unsatisfied with a capitalist status quo," Lukyanov says.
Chavez ably capitalized on Venezuela getting the status of an oil superpower. He once said that the podium in the UN General Assembly smelt like sulfur following US President George Bush Jr.’s speech.
Under Chavez, Venezuela expanded ties with China and Iran, boosting its special relationship with Russia. Right now, Russian oil and gas companies have multi-billion contracts with Venezuela on developing oil and gas deposits. Moscow currently supplies energy, chemical and oil producing equipment to Venezuela, where Russia also plans to build a spate of nuclear power plants. Under Chavez, the two countries have clinched multi-billion arms deals and repeatedly held joint naval drills.
Meanwhile, representatives of the opposition have said that all the contacts with Russia will be preserved.
Russia hopes the new Venezuelan leadership will be committed to mutually beneficial relations between Moscow and Caracas, a President Putin’s spokesman said Wednesday.
“We hope that the Venezuelan leadership, which will be elected by the Venezuelan people, will continue the positive, constructive and mutually beneficial partnership record between Russia and Venezuela,” Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said.
Earlier on Wednesday, President Putin expressed his condolences to Venezuela’s Vice President Nicolas Maduro and the nation.
He said the Russian leader wasn’t going to call up the country’s leadership yet.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has conveyed his condolences over Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's death, the government press service said on Wednesday.
In a telegram to Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro, Medvedev expressed his sincere condolences on behalf of the Russian government and on his personal behalf on the death of "Comandante Hugo Chavez, an outstanding politician and statesman and a great friend of Russia," it said.
"All Chavez's life is an example of selfless service to the Venezuelan people and fight for justice and equality. We share the pain of your loss and will always remember this remarkable man, patriot and citizen," Medvedev said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has endorsed the composition of a Russian official delegation to travel to Venezuela to attend President Hugo Chavez's funeral, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
"At Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision, Russia will be represented at Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's funeral by Igor Sechin as Russian presidential special envoy, Denis Manturov as a co-chairman of the bilateral intergovernmental commission, and Sergei Chemezov," Peskov said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent his condolences to the Venezuelan people over President Hugo Chavez's death and says he is convinced that Russia and Venezuela should continue to strengthen their bilateral relations, the Kremlin press service reported on Wednesday.
Putin addressed his "sincere condolences" to Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro and all Venezuelan people, calling Chavez "an outstanding leader and manager and Russia's close friend."
"Vladimir Putin highly praised the Venezuelan leader's personal efforts that helped lay a solid foundation of Russian-Venezuelan partnership, arrange active political contacts and launch far-reaching humanitarian and economic projects and expressed his conviction of the need to further follow this way, strengthening and developing the relationship between Russia and Venezuela," it said.
Voice of Russia, Interfax