While Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro will most likely win an election to succeed Hugo Chavez, “I don’t think he’s going to be able to keep the movement together,” LIGNET.com Managing Editor Fred Fleitz told Newsmax TV.
“In the short term, Maduro will continue Chavez’s power, Chavez’s influence and his policies,” Fleitz, a former analyst for the CIA, told Newsmax in an exclusive interview. “But Maduro is not the charismatic figure that Chavez was. He’s not going to be able to promote the Chavez movement the way he did. He doesn’t view the younger members of Chavez’s entourage. He doesn’t have the support of some of the older members.”
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So, the United States can immediately expect “a very sharp anti-American approach by Venezuela that they’ve been pushing in the hemisphere, that’s going to be unchanged,” Fleitz added.
“But in the long term, there’s some potential for the United States to work with the opposition in Venezuela to maybe promote some moderate leaders.”
The Venezuelan constitution requires an election within 30 days after a president dies, if it occurs during the first four years of a six-year term, Fleitz said.
“However, Chavez was arguably not really the president because he was not sworn in on Jan. 10 as he was supposed to be legally,” he said. “They simply gave him a pass — so right now it’s unclear whether Maduro is actually the vice president and exactly how to proceed.
“They will have elections in 30 days, and because of the sympathy vote for Chavez, Maduro is likely to win.”
Fleitz expects the opposition party, led by Henrique Capriles, to work hard to increase its presence in any new elected government, but “the sympathy vote is going to give an advantage to Chavez followers, but the economy is in such terrible shape that once this passes — the aftermath of Chavez’s death — there’s going to be a lot of infighting among the supporters, and the effects of the economy will set in on the population and the opposition is likely to be very rough.”
Cuba, a longtime Venezuelan ally, also is going to work to keep the Chavez coalition together, Fleitz said.
“Cuba is dependent upon Venezuelan oil, much of which they purchase through barter. Cuba can’t borrow money in the international financial market since it defaulted on loans about 15 years ago, so they’re certainly in a dire situation in terms of energy,” he said. “They’re very dependent on Venezuela for oil — and it’s certain that Cuba is very worried right now.
“They’re going to do everything they can to try to hold together the Chavez coalition in Venezuela.”
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