Chavez’s last election was his weakest yet as the economic implosion of Venezuela became even clearer. Without Chavez, the left has to count on his union thug replacement, Nicholas Maduro, to beat Henrique Capriles, the man who almost beat Chavez.
Maduro is an oddball choice. He can project some of Chavez’s aggressiveness and he looks more like a traditional Latin American leader, but that last bit may actually hurt him with Chavez’s base. And it doesn’t help much that he is a member of a cult, making his Catholicism even more debatable than Chavez’s. To some of Chavez’s more anti-Semitic followers, it really doesn’t help that the Maduro name over there tends to be associated with a wealthy Jewish family whom Nicholas Maduro is related to.
During his swearing-in, Nicholas Maduro denounced his Jewish relatives as “part of the rancid oligarchy of this country” revealing that his family ties are clearly an issue.
His opponent, Henrique Capriles, will hardly be able to use that against him, considering that Capriles’ mother was Jewish. The prospect of a man with paternal Jewish ties running against a man with maternal Jewish ties is probably outraging bigots already. However Capriles and Maduro are both officially Catholics and there is a sizable number of prominent Latin Americans with Jewish ancestry due the Edict of Expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1942 and the Holocaust.
More significantly Maduro is a weak candidate in a bad economy. Rushing the election will give Venezuelan voters less time to assess his time as acting president and advances the election while the hysterical mourning over Chavez is underway.
All that means the next Venezuelan election will be even uglier than the previous one. If Maduro wins, he will have a chance to run Venezuela into the ground for the next six years or turn around and beg the United States that Chavez spit on for help. If Capriles wins, then austerity is inevitable.
Venezuela’s economy is a mess and the election will, like most previous elections, come down purely to who benefits. It’s a tug of war between business owners and government workers, between the welfare state and the business state. It will be a starker version of the American election and due to the pile of debt that Chavez ran up and the huge number of public employees, it really will be a zero sum game.