Who comes after Chavez?
March 5th, 2013
05:55 PM ET

Who comes after Chavez?

This is an updated version of a What in the World article, in light of the March 5 announcement that Hugo Chavez has died. The original article was published here in January.

By Global Public Square staff

For 14 years, Hugo Chavez was a troubling global presence. He was an avowed critic of American capitalism…and yet he generated billions selling oil to the United States. He was a populist, whom some revered but others despised. One thing's for sure, Venezuela’s president was a fighter: last year it seemed he might even have defeated cancer.

But the cancer returned, and when he couldn’t attend his own swearing-in ceremony, it sparked a natural set of questions in Venezuela and around the world: what's next?

Whoever inherits the presidency, Chavez has cast a long shadow.

Look at his record. On the one hand, the poorest are actually better off. According to the Center for Economic Policy and Research, poverty has declined by 50 percent since 2004. Extreme poverty has declined by 70 percent. Over the same period, college enrollment doubled, and millions of Venezuelans gained access to health care. Many are getting free housing – Chavez announced on public television last year he would build two million homes for the poor.

But look deeper, and you’ll see that the programs that created these gains are built on the oil boom, badly designed, and damaging the Venezuelan economy. The economy is in shambles: Barclays Research puts Venezuela's annual fiscal deficit at nearly 20 percent of GDP, one of the highest imbalances in the world. Total debt has more than doubled since 2008. And that’s despite the fact that Venezuela has the greatest proven reserves of oil in the world – more than Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Canada. When Hugo Chavez first came to power in 1999, oil was trading at just $11 a barrel. Today, it is trading at about $90 a barrel. Chavez presided over the greatest windfall in his country's history. And yet Venezuela is probably the only petro-state in the world where people regularly suffer power outages. Infrastructure is crumbling. And public security is abysmal: Venezuela has one of the worst homicide rates in the world, worse even than Colombia, Honduras, or Mexico.

More from CNN: Chavez leaves revolutionary legacy

A recent Foreign Affairs essay pointed out that Venezuelan exports to the U.S. from the start of Chavez's rule through 2011 added up to nearly $350 billion. That is ironic for a presidency that marketed itself as anti-American. But even that trend may be reversing. According to a Financial Times report, for every 10 barrels of crude that are exported to the United States, Venezuela now needs to import two back, because it lacks refining capacity, which has been made worse by a recent explosion at a Venezuelan refinery. In other words, America is selling oil to Venezuela! Meanwhile Chavez continues to ship a reported 100,000 barrels of subsidized crude to Cuba, everyday.

Venezuela's people have gotten used to tall promises: free housing, essentially free gasoline. But increasingly, the state cannot afford it. It is popular to be anti-American, and yet the money has been coming from Washington. Cuba remains a staunch ally, but if it stops receiving cheap oil, it will pull out its tens of thousands of doctors from Venezuela, which will destroy Venezuela's healthcare system.

All these years, a popular Hugo Chavez was able to mask all these fundamental flaws in his economy using oil wealth. But the problems are building. The next leader of Venezuela will face the buildup of all these problems, and probably without Chavez's charisma and guile.

If you think balancing the budget in Washington is difficult, spare a thought for what Caracas will have to do in the coming years.

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soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Tom

    Hugo has now met Satan and the stench of sulfur is in his nostrils.

    March 5, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Reply
    • kumaran

      Love to all, hatred to no one, but White people must unite and organize to advance their families, their fertility, their interests. Reading list:

      March 6, 2013 at 3:30 am | Reply
    • Willy

      What has not been mentioned is what Maduro and Cronies have been trying to do since Chavez went to Cuba for the last time.They have been trying to steal everything they can get their hands on.Chavez has been undoubetedly the worst thing that could have happened to Venezuela and the Venezuelan people.Corruption is at an all time high.Chavez and his cronies have stolen all the money.Everything that has been done in Venezuela has had a price tag on it 10% of every project in cash in advance.PDVSA owes Billions of $ to the private service companies and will never pay.They need to bury Chavez deep and cover him with cement he who called George Bush the Devil was actually the right hand man of the Devil .

      March 7, 2013 at 8:52 am | Reply
    • Progessive7

      IIf you think Hugo is going to hell, surely you would agree the same fate must await George W. Bush and Dick Cheney?

      March 8, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Reply
    • Romeo

      Did you mean Reagan

      March 10, 2013 at 10:26 pm | Reply
  2. samplegoria

    Yeah, the devil is really worried, he is at risk of loosing the presidency of the hell, as Chavez will take over, dissolve the senate, purchase the supreme court and bribe millions with promises of a cooler inferno....

    March 5, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Reply
  3. Marine Way

    We should send them the moron that we have. He might even be an improvement.

    March 5, 2013 at 7:40 pm | Reply
    • Joe


      March 5, 2013 at 8:00 pm | Reply
    • Willy

      I will pay for his plane ticket.

      March 7, 2013 at 8:55 am | Reply
    • John 1

      are u talking about the white man, joe boehner?

      March 7, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Reply
  4. laminblake

    This was a well written article, thank you Fareed. People need to understand while everything looks fine and dandy in Venezuela there is a storm brewing that may very well tear the country apart.

    March 5, 2013 at 7:49 pm | Reply
    • GnomicGarthe

      The By-line on the story reads, Global Pubic Square Staff, not Fareed Zakaria. In order for one of Fareed's articles to be well-written, he first has to find a well-written article to plagiarize.

      March 5, 2013 at 8:14 pm | Reply
  5. chilean2

    Esto es mas importante y esta sucedidendo en USA a todos aquellos que DEMANDAN respeto a sus DERECHOS y exponen la CORRUPCION y los CORRUPTOS !! No se usan recursos para combatir o erradicar la Corrupcion y los corruptos que tenemos!! Por esto mi familia y muchisimas familias mas por todos los EEUU, aquellos que protestan y exponen los corruptos y su corrupcion, Nos "MATAN en VIDA" sin necesidad de ARMAS DE FUEGO!! A nuestra familia la han matado en vida por mas de 10 anos, por la venganza de algunos de los JUECES de la Corte Civil !! Por favor lean mis tweets at pradera123 y vean este corto video en YTube /IR7b6uiofjg Killing us w/out GUNS! lo hicimos apuradas pues nos tomo mas de 10 anos poder hacerlo y ponerlo, y asi y todo FBook lo puso donde casi nadie lo ve, ayudennos a que todo el mundo lo vea asi eveitaremos que le suceda a mas personas!!!

    March 5, 2013 at 9:18 pm | Reply
  6. 100 % ETHIO

    Either his own party or the opposition will win.

    March 5, 2013 at 10:30 pm | Reply
  7. John

    The poverty statistics are made up. The govt inflates all these numbers for propaganda purposes. If not can you quote non govt figures that show poverty to be that low? No one believes that...the shantys are bigger not smaller and people are starving...

    March 5, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Reply
  8. John

    Sic semper tirannis

    March 5, 2013 at 10:35 pm | Reply
  9. No WAR

    their media the sick have so many lies, pure demonize Chavez, but I proud to say that Chavez and my country never invaded or killed innocent people, not its terrorist country that has invaded many countries and killed millions of people

    March 5, 2013 at 11:31 pm | Reply
    • Fairness

      Like the Russians and the Chinese?, combined communist probably have murdered something like 110,000,000, or near two-thirds of all those killed by all governments, quasi-governments, and guerrillas from 1900 to 1987. Americans, which I am sure those are who yu are referring too have killed 10 millions, so do the math before making those kind of comments, and mind you, those are killing due to liberating contries from their dictators, where the russians and chinese have killed their own people.

      March 7, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Reply
  10. No War Wing

    Hell awaits U.S. for having supported his government to invade and kill innocent people around the world

    March 5, 2013 at 11:35 pm | Reply
  11. cyrus

    Topic- The last of days
    Todays verse-2john7- For many deceivers are into the world, who confess not that jesus christ is come in flesh.This is a deceiver and in antichrist .
    Bible reading- jerimah17:9-13

    Has condone with the old times that a population of people who always go about shaking in their heart and have been praying for years will all your prayers not come too past so now you need God too correct and make straight cause we all hope that our motion in christ will set us ablaze.But its beyond that zechariah2:12 tells us that the Lord shall forgive your sins and choose you again .So jeremaih17:10 sets us a hint of what we are too get soon and we should be prepared but it shall be the last of days too our blessing so why wont you follow God and as a youth why wont you work for God for the book of ezekiel20:14 talks about the time we have been wasting cause he will soon be bringing you out too the last of your days in jesus name.Amen.Then jeremaih17:11 tells us about those that actually moved themselves by a wrong way will end up like a partridge that get riches and leaves the riches in the mist of days jeremiah17:13 has now given us the hope that the last day is today that you are reading this cause all that has forsake thee shall be ashamed.

    Prayer-God aid my too believe that today his the last of days.

    March 6, 2013 at 2:14 am | Reply
  12. j. von hettlingen

    No doubt there will be elections and Nicolas Maduro has been working on Chavez's supporters to rally behind him. Where is Maduro going without Chavez? The two matched pretty well. Chavez was a soldier, loud but well-read, who knew the grassroots principles of Jean-Jacques Rousseau by heart. Maduro was a bus-driver, quiet and known more for his practical skills and skilled negotiations.

    March 6, 2013 at 8:51 am | Reply
  13. definitio

    US funding is all that kept the Venezuelan opposition going throughout those years when it lost one battle after another on the democratic front.

    When it did win a temporary advantage, in the 2002 coup, the first thing it did was dissolve parliament, weaken the Supreme judicial authorities and impose dictatorial rule lead by the Commercial Chamber head.

    If you want to know how immoral the US and the Venezuelan opposition is, check out what CNN journalist OTTO NEUSTADTL, admitted few months after the coup...that he was informed about what would happen (including the dead) on April 10, one day before the attempted coup.
    He was the one who videotaped the military officials renounce Chavez for the civilian deaths and declare coup, two hours before any clashes had taken place.

    These are the people that the US, CIA and National Endowment for Democracy has been financing.

    And the "devil" lives on

    March 6, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Reply
  14. Tom

    It's so annoying how people worship him as if he never did anything wrong. He may have done some good things, but there are far more bad ones. What about all the things he said he wouldn't do, but did anyway? Now, near the end, he would only keep on losing face among us.
    Many of us here in Venezuela feel strongly about the idea he'd been dead for over a month, but they built up all this circus around it to keep the truth at bay. Now we're stuck with this incompetent kissass (Maduro) who's only been bringing us down for the last two months.

    March 6, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Reply
  15. m.s.mohamed ansari




    OF ALL

    MEDIA G20

    Economic collapse.
    U.K – U.S & Eurounion
    • WAR cost total $ 3.5 TRILLION
    • POVERTY & FAMINE &food price increase . A queen family and royal force
    • Jobless PRESENT ECONOMIC CRISIS enjoying 10th generation the ruling the
    • Effected All Asian country and Africa global. U.S. U.K and euro union
    • Million of people death and million of people is wounded.
    • Raise every day by day OPEC
    • Global environment climate change this leads to agricultural problem
    Kindly please open the link which is below M.S.MOHAMED ANSARI
    Economic save only 6 point. Peace, prayer, liberty, unity, friendly, and simplicity.

    March 7, 2013 at 1:51 am | Reply
  16. Ignacio

    College Enrollment Doubled. Where do you leave? Really?,

    The reputed Center for Economic Policy and Research has as much credibility as Jimmy Carter.


    March 7, 2013 at 8:52 pm | Reply
  17. Dave T

    Can a new Marshall Plan be started in their country? It could be voted on by their people to rebuild their old neighborhoods. Since bond interest rates are at all time lows, these bonds could be voted on to rebuild their communities at minimum costs. These bonds could be paid back with their future oil incomes, minerals revenues and farming dividends. The US now has this small window of opportunity to win the hearts and minds of their people. So let us not waste time! We have hate groups dotting across South America. I believe hate is like a cancer, it metastasize weaken cells. We need new economic health in this country to prevent this cancer to spread. By developing new bond issued Marshal Plan, This will employ thousands to rebuild old neighborhoods. Then their people will see life improving. If the US is seen being behind this effort; we shall win the hearts and minds of people there.
    At the same time, they could import building materials, plywood, appliances, roofing from the US. Then this will create jobs in the US making these items. So please, let us begin by organizing a new Marshall Plan paid for by cheap bonds. it would do the most good for all involved, in my opinion. Then this will become a win-win-win for everyone!

    March 8, 2013 at 9:06 am | Reply
  18. Natti 23

    all of you people who like to talk to much about Chavez , well let me tell you that he was a great leader. Yes he made mistakes ,but everyone does as well, and instead of talking about the Venezuelan country and judging it's leaders ,why don't you guys care more about whats going in the U.S.A and how bad the economy is. I just hate seeing this ridiculous comments . And if so many people are crying out there in Venezuela than that shows how much people appreciated Chavez. No other president in Venezuela has done that !!!! .....I'm pretty sure that Chavez didn't pay this people to cry for him . The media lies about those supposedly ghost voted that has made Chavez win the elections. SO what there telling me is the those dead had somehow resurrected and are the ones crying for him on the streets! please stop being fools people. and see the realistic life that we live in. Chavez has been trying to make peace with U.S.A but it has been impossible, Hopefully this year Venezuela and U.S.A will finally make peace!

    March 9, 2013 at 11:12 am | Reply
  19. ergo sum

    Democracy and Justice are just as safe under ex-bus driver Nicolas Maduro as they were under Chavez. State Attorney General Celia Flores guarantees that, because she happens to be Mrs. Nicolas Maduro.

    March 11, 2013 at 7:53 am | Reply




    OF ALL

    MEDIA G20

    U.K – U.S & Eurounion
    • WAR cost total $ 3.5 TRILLION
    • POVERTY FAMINE &Effected education.
    • Effected All Asian and Africa countries
    • FDI INVESTOR &Joint ventured
    • Effected CNC manufacturer & energy power
    • Million of people death and million of people is wounded. NATO &US. Coalition troops
    • Increase every day by day OPEC.
    • Global environment climate change this leads to agricultural &human health problem
    Kindly please open the link which is below M.S.MOHAMED ANSARI
    Economic save only 6 point. Peace, prayer, liberty, unity, friendly, and simplicity.

    Indeed, to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth; billion of universe; He gives life and causes death. And you have not besides ALLAA any protector or any helper. ALLAA AKBAR. Quran 9/116

    And say, "Truth has come, and falsehood has departed. Indeed is falsehood, [by nature], ever bound to depart." Quran 17/81.
    Every one come Easy way Islam. Take of bath properly please say.ALLAA AKBAR VA ASHATHU ANNAMOHAMMED ABDUHU VA RASOOL. Following. 6. 1, each everything only believe ALLAA next 2, A DAY 6time prayer. 3, RAMADAN Every year one month fasting 4, ZAKKATH. Every year one time Charity 6% 5, IKRAAM. Give an take policy 6, DAWA call Every body Islam.

    All country, army,weapons and money are all in one roof to against attack innocent saddam hussein ? people want to justify w.bush or saddam hussein

    According to the CNN WORLD report, in the war 6, 75,000 civilians killed, 7500 troops of USA and its allied forces killed 3 25 000 people wounded and $ 3.5 Trillion Dollar spent for the war. This spending of $ 3.5 Trillion Dollar is the main cause of action for the present economic crises prevailing all over the world.
    After winning the war against IRAQ, the United States of America’s President Mr. George W.Bush, also admitted the same fact, and he openly stated that the Intelligence agency misguided him.
    Later on, even the United Nations Organization (UNO) also certified that the IRAQ has no nuclear weapons.
    Then it is the bounded duty of the United States of America and its allied forces to withdraw from IRAQ.


    April 6, 2013 at 9:02 am | Reply
  21. JD

    My sources tell me that Chavez has been dead for about two weeks. That is why Evo Morales was not able to see him during his trip to Cuba.

    March 5, 2013 at 9:03 pm | Reply
  22. Espartaco

    Hello, CNN, according to my sources he died on December 30th and Venezuela's government lies to us everyday till yesterday, thanks god he died 'cause he wanted that Venezuela shall get in a communist country and In Venezuela we love to be free.

    March 6, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Reply

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