January 3, 2013
By Ray Walser, Ph.D.
Delivering Chavismo without Chávez will be a daunting challenge. Many predict it cannot be done.
Politically, heir apparent, vice president and foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, must preserve unity within the United Socialist Party, fend off internal rivals and set an ideological path for the future. Chávez promised that between 2013 and 2018 he would make his experiments with “socialism of the 21st century” irreversible. Yet socialism in Venezuela remains consistently inconsistent.
Chávez won reelection this October with a striking 55 percent of the vote. Yet polls show that likely opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski is more popular than Maduro or any other Chavista. Clearly, Maduro cannot match Chávez’s populist appeal. But the electoral machine and the sympathy vote will favor him.
Another key challenge for the next leader will be keeping out-sized promises. After an orgy of social spending in 2012, Venezuelans’ expectations are pitched high. Promises for jobs, new homes, health services and free appliances could fall flat, perhaps even at the same time as a post-electoral hangover.
Venezuela suffers from high public debt, accelerating inflation, potential devaluation and slowing growth. The national oil company PDVSA, the country’s economic life support system, is in trouble. It’s even importing refined gasoline from the U.S. From failing infrastructure to one of the world’s highest per capita homicide rates, the next president faces a tough phalanx of domestic challenges.
Finally, Chávez is known for strutting on the international stage, playing bad boy to the United States. The Ahmadinejads, Castros and Ortegas of our world could count on a hero’s welcome in Caracas, along with a replica of the Great Liberator’s sword. Saddled with serious problems — and lacking the charisma — Chávez’s heir will probably be hard-pressed to cast the same giant Bolivarian shadow over the international landscape.
First appeared in The New York Times' "Room for Debate."
American Leadership Initiative of the Leadership for America Campaign
Ray Walser, Ph.D.
Senior Policy Analyst
Read More >>
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 200,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Read More
© 2013, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973