Venezuela after Chavez? An Example of True Leadership

Dec. 19, 2012

by Eja, NVS- Leaders who are wise and strong endeavour to be succeeded by ones wiser and stronger than themselves.

They do this because it is the only way there is to ensure that all the good things they put in place will be preserved and improved upon. But, in countries that are led by fools, the most urgent desire of the misleaders is to ensure that those who come after are even more foolish.

Because, like the true leaders spoken of above, they also want to preserve (and improve upon) what they put in place.

And since what they put down will manifest as maladies in various spheres of human activity, the improvements their preferred successors will implement can only make things worse.

Therefore, the most significant task that confronts true leaders (from day one of their regime) is to put in place the types of mechanisms that serve to ensure that all levels of the hierarchy are occupied by top quality persons who do not have service to self as a primary motivation.

Hugo Chávez’s Bolívarian revolution will soldier on without him
If the president does not recover Venezuela will miss his charismatic leadership. But his dream has come to fruition

by Richard GottThe fate of Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela and the hope of progressive change in Latin America, lies in the balance. Last weekend he appeared on television to alert his people that his cancer, first diagnosed last year, had taken a serious turn for the worse, as he set off on a fresh journey to Havana for further surgery.

He was in obvious discomfort and admitted to extreme pain. Invoking the memory of his personal hero, Simón Bolívar, the 19th-century liberator of Latin America, he implied that he might not be around for the next stage of his Bolivarian revolution. He announced clearly that his successor, for whom everyone should vote when the time came, would be Nicolas Maduro, the vice-president since October and the foreign minister since 2006. Then on Wednesday, after a six-hour operation, Maduro made clear in sombre tones that the president’s recovery would be a hard and complex process. The mood in Caracas and throughout the country, from government ministers to the impoverished inhabitants of the shanty towns, is now exceptionally bleak, as it begins to dawn on the population at large that the 14-year-old Chávez era is drawing to a close.

There is an immediate timetable for the weeks ahead. On Sunday there will be elections for governors of the country’s 28 states, which are mostly at the moment in the hands of Chávez supporters. Then, on 10 January, there is scheduled to be an inauguration ceremony when Chávez, who handily won the presidential elections in October, would have been expected to start a new six-year term. Government ministers indicate that that might now be in doubt. There is another significant date approaching: 17 December marks the anniversary of the death of Bolívar, who died in Santa Marta, Colombia, at the age of 47, probably of tuberculosis. Might Chávez, who is 58, be holding on for just such an appropriate moment to die?

Were this to happen, the Venezuelan constitution would grind into action, causing Diosdado Cabello, the president of the national assembly and an old military comrade of Chávez, to be catapulted briefly into the presidency and charged with holding a presidential election within 30 days. The government candidate would be Cabello’s rival, the Chávez-anointed Maduro.

Alternatively, were Chávez to survive long enough to appear at the inauguration ceremony in January and then to die, Maduro, as the vice-president, would immediately succeed to the presidency, without the need for a further election.

In Venezuela itself, there is no doubt that the Bolívarian revolution presided over by Chávez will be able to soldier on without him. After 14 years of considerable institutional change, huge oil revenues now pour into the alleviation of the acute poverty suffered by a large percentage of the country, and there is a rock-solid base of chavista support that will take decades to erode. Chávez also leaves a competent team of ministers at the top, most of whom have been running the country quite happily in recent years. They share the radical vision of Chávez, and in Maduro they have an engaging and collegiate leader. There are no immediate crises in sight and, in spite of alarmist reports in the foreign press, the economy is purring along quite well. After more than a decade on a political roller-coaster, the country will return to a more normal profile.

What Venezuela will lose is the spark of genius and of charismatic leadership that has pushed the country on to the world stage. Chávez has been the most important Latin American figure since the emergence of Fidel Castro, more than half a century ago. He has captivated his own people and inspired much of the rest of the Latin American continent, and like Castro before him his influence has had a global reach.

More problematic than the stability of Venezuela is the future of the Bolívarian revolution in Latin America. The Bolívarian vision of Chávez to unite the continent has taken great strides in recent years, and he has been the driving force. The creation of Unasur in 2008, a continental organisation without the oppressive presence of the US, has been an important step. Yet more visionary has been the establishment of Alba, originally conceived in 2004, an organisation of eight countries based on the firm alliance between Venezuela and Cuba that envisages the kind of unity between countries that Bolívar once dreamed of. These constructs represent the deeply rooted Latin American desire for independence that was endlessly thwarted during the years of the cold war.

Yet without the leadership of Chávez the individual countries may find it difficult to collaborate. The Cuba of Raúl Castro, or his successor, may eventually put friendship with the US ahead of its warm relationship with Latin America. Evo Morales of Bolivia is a charismatic leader, best placed to take over the role of Chávez, yet can an Indian from a small country lead a continent where prejudice is still a problem?

The same goes for Rafael Correa of Ecuador, an intelligent leader from another small country, with something of Chávez’s imagination and vision but without the resources to make a continental impact. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina is another attractive and popular leader at home, building on the surviving legacy of Peronism, yet Argentinians have never cut much ice outside their own country. Portuguese-speaking Brazil has never aspired to lead Latin America, and never will, even when Lula eventually returns as president.

This may be too pessimistic a view, for the shadow of Chávez will certainly hover over Latin America for years to come, forever invoking the powerful and irresistible dream of Bolívar. The image of a democratic and incorruptible leader who once sought to change the history of the continent will last long into the 21st century.