President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has died, and this key South American state finds itself going through another political transitional moment with an uncertain future. The Venezuelan electorate finds themselves looking to their nation’s constitution and asking what’s next.
What is important to understand is the fact that just because a country holds elections and has referendum power doesn’t mean democracy is alive. Chavez had been clear from the beginning that his intention was to write a new constitution for Venezuela. In December of 1998 the Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled in favor of Chavez writing a new constitution, and with this they opened the path to dictatorship.
Naively they didn’t expect him to become a social revolutionary that would single handedly shift the country in a totally new direction of radical social policy. His vision was one of Venezuela’s strategic integration with select South American countries as well as Cuba and Iran.
Chavez said that abolishing presidential term limits was necessary to implement his social programs. He slowly started concentrating more power in the presidency and dominating the legislative and judiciary branches of government. With a weak or non-existent check and balance in government enabling executive power, government can be vague in policy and Chavez could rule as a supreme power.
Typically the military becomes the protector of the government, not the citizens. For this reason the opposition to power has to be careful in its manifestations against the government. The example of Venezuela and the road it has traveled is a lesion in government and the caution that needs to be exercised by the electorate.
President Hugo Chavez won the presidential elections back in October of 2012. It was the hardest presidential battle for Chavez in his fourteen years of government. For the first time Chavez had a great opponent. The young Henrique Capriles Rasdonsky would emerge as the image of leadership for the opposition.
The young Capriles lost the presidential elections, but many people still support him. On March 5, 2013 Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez Frias died before formally taking the third term of his presidency. His second presidential term ended January of 2013, and he was set to officially start his third term on March 3, two days before he died. However, after a long battle with cancer he was submitted to surgery in December and was physical unable to officially take the presidency
The electorate base on the constitution called for presidential elections on April 14, 2013. The leader of the opposition, Capriles Rasdonsky, is their presidential candidate. They will try one more time to end the arbitrary government. Rasdonsky says continuing the fight is his responsibility.
On the other hand, Nicolas Maduro, the vice-president and now interim president, will try to continue the path left by President Chavez. Capriles and his supporters have everything against them. Based on the constitution, Nicolas Maduro should not have to run for president because he is the interim president left in place by Chavez. However, the electorate of Venezuela has sent a strong message to the opposition to respect the results. So what’s next after Chavez death? We are about to find out.
By Mara Orchard