Source Newsroom: Cornell University
Newswise — Kenneth Roberts is professor of government at Cornell University and a specialist in Latin American politics. He has studied in Venezuela and is author of the study “Populism, Political Conflict, and Grass-Roots Organization in Latin America: A Comparison of Fujimori and Chavez,” published in the journal Comparative Politics.
“The death of Hugo Chavez following a prolonged struggle with cancer creates new uncertainty about the future course of Venezuelan politics. Even without Chavez in the presidency, Chavismo as a political movement is sure to continue, and Venezuelan politics is likely to remain divided between pro- and anti-Chavez forces.
“Although Chavez’s reign was marked by a charismatic and autocratic style of rule, in recent years the president took steps to institutionalize a governing party, the United Venezuelan Socialist Party, which is highly likely to continue in power in his absence. Chavez’s designated successor, Vice-President Nicolás Maduro, is favored to win new presidential elections, and while he lacks Chavez’ personal appeal, he appears to have the backing of the party machine and its popular constituencies.
“What observers often fail to recognize, however, is that opposition forces may find it even more difficult to maintain their political cohesiveness without Chavez to rally against. A loose coalition of opposition forces came together to challenge Chavez in recent national elections, but traditional political parties have largely collapsed, and anti-Chavez actors remain organizationally and politically fragmented.
“The central cleavage between Chavista and anti-Chavista forces will thus continue to structure political competition in the years to come, but the fate of the latter is likely to hinge on their ability to organize a cohesive political alternative. Whether or not they do, the legacies of Chavismo are sure to outlive their namesake.”
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