Hugo Chavez, R.I.P. - Leader Broke Venezuela Out of America's Imperial Orbit, Threw Neoliberal 'Economics' in the Trash
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AMY GOODMAN: Juan, there’s an old Latin—
MICHAEL SHIFTER: So I’m glad it didn’t succeed in April 2002.
AMY GOODMAN: There’s an old Latin American—
MICHAEL SHIFTER: And I’m glad Chávez’s didn’t, either.
AMY GOODMAN: There’s an old Latin American joke that says, "Why hasn’t the U.S. ever undergone a coup?" And that’s because there’s no U.S. embassy here.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I’d like to ask Michael Shifter, your sense of where—what the future now holds in terms of Venezuela, the ability of the opposition to mount a strong campaign against Nicolás Maduro, because obviously Maduro is going to be the candidate of the Chávez forces? What do you look for now in the coming days in terms of indications of where the situation in Venezuela will go?
MICHAEL SHIFTER: Well, I think there are going to be elections. I think Maduro is going to be the candidate. I think he has—the chances are that he’s going to be elected. All the polls show that. The opposition is very, very demoralized, very fragmented. They lost in October by 11 points. They lost the governorships in December. They’re looking for a strategy. They’re wondering about their leadership. So I think the government certainly has the upper hand, and I think that the government will come together. There are different factions within Chavismo, but I think they’ll come together, certainly in the short term. So I look, for the short term, for things to be fairly stable and fairly steady under the leadership of Nicolás Maduro. I think that’s probably the likely scenario.
What I’m going to look for is more in the next six to eight months when, if the economic situation continues to deteriorate, and you might want to look for some strains and infighting within the Chávez camp. Nobody can match Chávez’s charisma and his ability to hold together the different forces within Chavismo. He had that unique ability. Maduro, for all of his whatever skills he has, he doesn’t have that talent. And I think that we could see developing some real tensions within the Chávez camp that could really—has the potential, at least, to create some turmoil.
But for the short term, my guess is that things will—that Maduro will be the president. The opposition has a long way to go to regroup and come up with an alternative strategy. Hopefully they’ll work on that and do that. But they just suffered two defeats, and they are figuring out what to do.
AMY GOODMAN: Nicolás Maduro, of course, now is the Venezuelan vice president. In October 2007, when he was Venezuela’s foreign minister, we had a chance to interview him. It was a year after President Chávez had famously referred to then-President George W. Bush as the devil in a speech before the General Assembly. Before we hear from Maduro, let’s go to that clip of Chávez at the U.N. in 2006.
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] And the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday, the devil came here, right here, right here. And it smells of sulfur still today.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s president, speaking at the U.N. in 2006, referring to George W. Bush. Well, the next year, in 2007, I asked Nicolás Maduro what message he had for the United States.
NICOLÁS MADURO: [translated] Our message is a message, first of all, to draw a balance of what has happened over the last months in the world, what happened in the world, what’s been the role of the United Nations to guarantee peace, how much the world has lost as a result of this crazy policy that apparently will be prolonged with this attack against the Islamic Republic of Iran. It could reach a crazy level if we pretend to take the way of war to aggress, to attack the Iranian people.