Venezuela. On March 5, Venezuela's controversial and
internationally renowned President Hugo Chávez passed away
at the age of 58, after two years of fighting cancer.
Hundreds of thousands of people followed his coffin through
the streets of the capital Caracas the following day. He had
been President continuously since 1999 and left an indelible
mark not only on Venezuela but throughout Latin America. His
influence on several leftist movements in the region can
hardly be overestimated.
In Venezuela, Chávez was most praised for his efforts in
the social field - poverty and income inequality have
decreased and access to medical care for the poor has
increased dramatically. Others cited the country's foreign
debt, inflation and mismanaged oil sector as negative
results of the years with Chávez, as well as the crime and
major deficiencies in the democratic system, such as the
extreme concentration of power in the hands of the president
and state control of the media.
The fact that Venezuela without Hugo Chávez will be
something else was evidenced by the result in the April 14
presidential election, when Chávez himself hand-picked the
successor Nicolás Maduro who was expected to win for
Venezuela's United Socialist Party (PSUV), but by a very
small margin, with only 1.5 % overweight. His opponent,
Henrique Capriles, who in the presidential elections in
October 2012 only managed to win the majority in two states,
now won in eight states and among them the six most populous
in the country.
Despite Maduro's weak results, the opposition expressed
dissatisfaction with the electoral procedure and demanded
recalculation of the votes. According to most analysts, the
result indicated that the strength of the political movement
that Chávez started ("chavismo") was strongly connected to
him as a person and that Maduro lacks all the charisma that
his representative had. At the same time, Maduro still had a
congressional majority behind him and controlled all the
most important functions of state power. Maduro was
installed on April 19.
In response to criticism of the government for the rise
in crime, President Maduro announced a new campaign in early
May in which the military played a significant role.
murder statistics are one of the worst in the region despite
a number of similar measures in recent years.
In the local elections in early December, a hint of
chavismon's declining opinion following Chávez's death was
given. Although PSUV received almost half the votes cast,
the opposition won in two of the most important cities,
Maracaibo, which is the center of Venezuela's oil industry,
and the capital Caracas. In total, the opposition won in 53
of the 149 municipalities.