In Free Venezuela’s latest podcast, featuring Erik Ekvall, an American emigre to Venezuela with a distinguished record of advising Latin American leaders, the critical question of whether the opposition can win an election on such an unequal playing field is posed. “I believe we are in a period of post-electoral politics,” says Ekvall. “We are now in a period of wide, civil resistance, by any possible means, hopefully non-violent, in order to break down what is a very sophisticated dictatorial system.”
Yet the cracks in that same system may now be intensifying. Here’s what the Washington Post has to say in its latest editorial on Venezuela:
Mr. Chavez is now saying that his longtime foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, should succeed him. But he cannot appoint him to office: Venezuela’s constitution says that if the president dies or is forced to leave office, a new election for president must be held within 30 days. There is no guarantee that Mr. Chavez’s populist movement can hold together after his death or that Mr. Maduro could defeat a challenger from the Venezuelan opposition. Polls have consistently shown that the opposition candidate in the October election, Henrique Capriles Radonski, could defeat any government nominee except Mr. Chavez.
Mr. Chavez has meanwhile ensured that whoever succeeds him will inherit a daunting mess. To win the election, the government spent wildly, running up a budget deficit of 20 percent of gross domestic product. The next president consequently will be forced to devalue the currency, giving a boost to inflation that is already in double digits and worsening already-severe shortages of consumer goods. That’s not to mention the tidal wave of violence that has overtaken the country: Venezuela’s murder rate is now one of the highest in the world. In 14 years in power, Mr. Chavez has thoroughly wrecked what was once Latin America’s richest country and one of its most enduring democracies. Now, thanks to his dishonesty about his health, he could create a vacuum in which Venezuelans have 30 days to decide on a leader to inherit the catastrophe he created.