I’m not sure how the US media outlets are covering the current political events down here, if at all. Here’s a brief explanation as I understand it.
Chavez is in Cuba. Perhaps he’s dead, perhaps not, no one really knows. The political party has not allowed third party doctors to confirm his health and the government is not releasing any information.
As his health declined precipitously in October, Chavez tapped Nicolas Maduro, the current vice-president, as his political successor. Maduro has close ties with the Castros in Cuba and comes from the civilian side of the government. If Maduro becomes president the new vice-president might be a guy named Cabello, who comes from the military side of things. There is a potential clash of interest there because both have put personal power aspirations aside for the last 13 years while Chavez called the shots.
Chavez was supposed to be inaugurated on January 10th but wasn’t healthy enough, so the Supreme Court ruled that the inauguration could be delayed until he regains his health. And so began the debates about the constitutionality of the whole situation and the now two-week-old limbo-like period.
If Chavez ends up dying, then Maduro would not automatically assume the presidency like the vice-president does in the US; he will have to run as Hugo’s successor in a new election. There’s much speculation about whether he would be a strong enough candidate to win.
Recently, Chavistas have taken up the saying, “Yo soy Chavez.” The implication is that even if Hugo is not with us, we are all Chavez. We are the movement. We are the future. I question the efficacy of suddenly shifting the responsibility to the people since they have become so accustomed to a leader who makes all the decisions for them. It’s a smooth move as far as a rallying cry, but in the long run, I doubt it will stand up.
Anyhow, today there is a huge Chavista rally. Supporters will be marching from three different spots in the city to converge in a poor neighborhood called 23 de enero. People are coming from all over the country for the rally. It’s a big one. The US State Department has issued a warning to steer clear of any demonstrations. Part of me wants to witness the march, but the other part of me (knowing that supposedly 50% of people here carry weapons and that many Chavistas really hate the US) wants to live another day.
Exciting times ahead!