Beatriz Lecumberri was the bureau chief for the news organisation Agence France Presse in Caracas between 2008 and 2011, and during that time followed the Chavez phenomenon closely. She also wrote the book, The Sentimental Revolution.
She told euronews: “His illness has come as a big surprise in the first place to Chavez himself, and the heart of his party and the inner government circle of those closest to him.
“It’s something no-one imagined, including Chavez. He’d foreseen all possible scenarios, but not a factor as unpredictable as illness and death, and they have spent a lot of time taking in that possibility.
“Chavez had said ‘I will govern until 2021’, and all of a sudden this appeared in his path, something he cannot control, and that can keep him out of the political scene.
“Venezuelan society is going to take some time to get used to the country without Chavez – both his supporters and opponents.
“He’s a unique president,” Lecumberri went on. “You can’t be indifferent about such a personality. You either love him like mad, or hate him like the plague.
“It’s plain that Chavez IS ‘Chavism’. It’s hugely difficult to maintain this charisma, this omnipresence, this way of doing politics so particular and so focused on one person.
“I think it is possible to continue the Bolivarian revolution without Chavez, but Chavism without him would be quite a different thing – something you would have to re-name.
“Chavez put paid to any doubts about the transition of power when he left for Cuba, saying: ‘I want my successor to be Nicolas Maduro.’
“I think that makes sense because within the party he’s the one most similar to Chavez, even though he doesn’t have the military background like him.
“Nicolas Maduro appears to Venezuelans just like Chavez does.”