|Graphic by Nam Kyung-don (그래픽: 코리아헤럴드 남경돈)|
The death of Hugo Chavez on Tuesday is expected to have a profound impact on Latin America’s economy and political landscape, as the brash, outspoken Venezuelan ruler was the patron for the anti-American bloc in the region.
With the death of Chavez, it seems unclear if the left wing will retain power within Venezuela.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro, the next-in-command after the deceased leader, is set to face tough challenges from Henrique Capriles, the runner-up in last year’s presidential election.
While Maduro has the distinct advantage of being the hand-picked successor to Chavez, he lacks the formidable personality of the late charismatic leader.
Maduro also has to cope with the daunting task of keeping unity within his party while rallying support in a country left in an economic muddle. The World Bank forecast that the Venezuelan economy will grow by 1.8 percent in 2013, down from 5 percent in 2012.
Venezuela’s long-time alliance with Latin America’s leftist leaders may be in peril in the event of Capriles taking the helm, given that the opposition leader heavily criticized Chavez for providing preferential oil deals to its allies, namely Cuba, Bolivia and Ecuador.
Some speculate that Chavez’s absence may improve strained ties with the United States, as he was a pronounced anti-U.S. figure. Others within Chavez’s inner circle claimed that the U.S. government was behind a failed a 2002 attempt to overthrow him.
U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen had called Chavez’s death “an opportunity for democracy in Venezuela.”
By Yoon Min-sik