Speculation is growing that Hugo Chavez, long time (and recently re-elected) president of Venezuela, may be losing his long battle with cancer.According to an ABC News report, Dr. Rafael Marquina, a Venezuelan who claims to have inside information, thinks it’s only a matter of time before Chavez is disconnected from the machines currently keeping him alive.
ABC’s Manual Rueda writes:
His possible death, or the inability to be sworn in for his fourth term in office on January 10, could trigger a bizarre battle for succession within Chavismo. According to some observers, Vice President Nicolas Maduro and former military man, and National Assembly president, Diosdado Cabello, might clash as the country prepares for post-Chavez elections.
There’s another side to that coin though — Venezuela is coming off a great economic year, but largely because of “unsustainable” deficit spending. Everyone knows the good times are over, tough unpopular decisions are approaching, likely in the first quarter of 2013.
So leaders may rather get into a shoving match, manoeuvring their rivals into the position of falling on the economic sword, while they in turn weather the storm.
Dan Molinksi and Kejal Vyas of WSJ points out that Venezuela has growing currency and deficit issues that must be addressed soon.
The growing deficit raises Venezuela’s borrowing costs to a level seen by many economists as unsustainable until the country reins in spending, gets a boost to its income through higher oil prices, or devalues its local Strong Bolivar currency to make it buy more domestically.
Almost all these options would land squarely on the shoulders of lower income citizens, just as inaction itself will soon lead to shortages of everything from “ranging from baby diapers to foods.”
Hugo Chavez, the people’s candidate, would rather easily weather this storm. Whoever replaces him, on the other hand, whether it be Maduro or Cabello or his election rival Henrique Capriles, none holds the sway in popularity as Chavez.
Making matters worse for whoever holds that hot potato, Venezuela will be temporarily weakened in OPEC, and foreign policy ties to Cuba, but mostly to Russia, China and Iran, will have to be retested.
“The (presidency) is a poisoned chalice,” Francisco Toro, a prominent Venezuelan blogger, told ABC via a recent Gchat conversation.
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