Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Critical Alert- Venezuela: Death of President Chavez

Critical Alert


The Venezuelan government announced the death of President Hugo Chavez Frias on the afternoon of March 5. Memorials will likely take place in major cities throughout Venezuela in the near future, especially in Caracas. Large crowds are likely to converge on the capital before Chavez's funeral, the date of which has not yet been announced. Expect increased traffic on highways and inner-city roads, long lines and delays at airport, and high demand for taxis in the capital. Road closures and traffic disruptions are likely throughout Caracas, particularly along Avenida Bolivar in the city center. Palacio Miraflores, which is at Avenida Norte 10 and Avenida Urdaneta, may be a focal point for speeches and memorial events. Increased security is expected at these gatherings, but violent clashes involving opposition supporters are unlikely.

The Venezuelan constitution mandates new presidential elections must be held within 30 days. Opposition leaders will likely begin a major protest campaign if the government or the judiciary interferes with this process or attempts to delay a vote, but significant unrest is unlikely in the immediate future.


Chavez was reelected in October, but departed for Cuba Dec. 11 to undergo his fourth cancer surgery since his 2011 diagnosis. He had not been heard from since that time, prompting the opposition to repeatedly call for new elections during this long period of silence from Chavez, claiming that the ruling party was lying to the public about the president's condition. The National Assembly supported the Supreme Court's decision to postpone Chavez's January inauguration indefinitely, maintaining that the ceremony was merely a formality. Maduro assumed the role of acting president while Chavez convalesced. This arrangement caused considerable tension between the government and opposition groups. Government officials may have prolonged the suspense regarding Chavez's health to maintain control and foster public support for Maduro, knowing that elections would inevitably have to take place to avoid major political fallout when Chavez died.

Current Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who belongs to Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), will probably run for president. Current Miranda State Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski will likely run as the opposition candidate.


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