While Venezuela mourns the death of its charismatic leader Hugo Chavez, questions are already being asked about how the country will move on.
But despite the obvious esteem reserved for him among parts of society some analysts say it is far from certain that his successor will be from the Chavez camp.
Senior Americas Analyst at IHS in London, Diego Moya-Ocampos told euronews: “I think Chavez will be remembered as a man who brought to Venezuela high hopes of political, economic and social change. And he was successful in keeping that hope alive. But he will also be remembered as a man who failed to bring Venezuela into a path of prosperity and progress.
“He will always be remembered as a man which – despite his charisma, his power, his influence – failed to strengthen Venezuela’s democratic institutions, tackle corruption and increase citizens’ security. Chavez will remain a divisive figure in Venezuela and clearly (his shadow) will continue influencing the political process. Now, Maduro is going to be challenged from a social and economic point of view. The government announced a devaluation of the currency and there are shortages of food – maize, basic foods.
“This is creating a very interesting dynamic. At the moment Venezuelans are seeing their purchasing capacity being affected. So I think the big question now is, will Venezuelans decide for the Chavismo to continue through the figure of Nicolas Maduro, or will Venezuelans look for a change in the image of Henrique Capriles which clearly represents a more business-friendly approach and a move to the centre.”
Whether Venezuelans decide to stick with the socialist path of Hugo Chavez or head in a business direction, oil will continue to play a central role. The industry is the mainstay of the economy and the country has the world’s largest oil reserves.
Moya-Ocampos told us: “For the oil sector this is a key moment as well. The key oil players which are waiting and on-hold under investment plans for their oil-rich Orinoco belt are waiting to see which is going to be the leadership in Venezuela in the years to come (sic). Now, increasing oil production is absolutely key for Venezuela and absolutely key for Maduro if he is to get elected and try to continue the Chavez political process. Most of the social programmes that were introduced by Chavez are not sustainable and will not survive an environment of decreasing oil prices.”
Relations with the United States have been tense in recent years. The socialist Chavez was never afraid to challenge the US. Even after he died, Washington was accused of interfering in Venezuelan affairs. And yet, commercially the two countries have always done a lot together.
“Maduro will continue developing this nationalist, leftist, anti-US rhetoric, but when it comes to oil supplies Venezuela will continue being very pragmatic. The US, indeed, remains Venezuela’s main trading partner,” Moya-Ocampos said.
Chavez won four presidential elections and ruled Venezuela for 14 years. Now the constitution says there must be a new vote within 30 days, but some politicians say the electoral authorities will not be ready in time, and Venezuela’s future direction will have to wait.