President Hugo Chávez, the man who changed the Venezuelan flag on its 200th anniversary — steering the white horse left instead of right — changing the appearance of the nation’s currency, passports and government documents, and even the country’s constitution while in power, is now dead after fighting cancer since June 2011. What is in store for the South American left-leaning nation now?
According to Venezuela’s constitution, if the president relinquishes power because of his physical inability to perform his duties, this is considered an “absolute absence,” which a medical committee has to certify. However, because the president has died, the constitution mandates that new elections take place within 30 days. Venezuela’s constitution specifies that the speaker of the National Assembly, currently Diosdado Cabello, should assume the interim presidency if a president can’t be sworn in. But Foreign Minister Elias Jaua announced one of Chavez’s final wishes late Tuesday,Vice President Nicolás Maduro would assume power until elections can be held in 30 days and a new president resumes his term.
Many expect Maduro to win the election, as he is who Chávez designated as his political successor, against Henrique Capriles Radonski — the governor who lost to Chávez in the October presidential election, but no one can know what the transition will hold for sure just yet.
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Earlier today, Maduro announced the expulsion of U.S. diplomat, David del Monaco — ordering him leave the country in 24 hours. He said a letter has been delivered to the U.S. embassy in Caracas.
According to the Associated Press, Maduro accused del Monaco of meeting with military officers and planning to destabilize the country. Embassy spokesman, Greg Adams, had no immediate comment.
A long-lasting goal of Chávez had been to lessen Venezuela’s influence on the U.S. – the fourth-largest foreign oil supplier to the United States. He led Venezuela into socialism, and in his effort to help the poor, was known for spending hours at a time on television lecturing to his people.
He hasn’t been seen in public since his December surgery, even though his second term began on January 10 — leaving his Venezuelan people without a leader.
“In regimes that are so person-based, the moment that the person on which everything hangs is removed, the entire foundation becomes very weak because there was nothing else supporting this other than this figure,” said Javier Corrales, a professor of political science at Amherst College, to the New York Times.
But even though the airwaves have been quiet without him speaking in his charismatic way, his people for now, are hanging onto his revolutionary dream chanting, “Chavez vive, la lucha sigue!” in the streets of Caracas.
Venezuela’s Supreme Court Chief, Luisa Estella Morales, went on Venezuelan television a few hours after the president’s death and asked the country, “to trust the institutions, and its judicial powers.”
Will the horse keep galloping left? Only time will tell.