Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, is dying.
This is bad news for him, his followers and allies. He has named the vice president, Nicolas Maduro, as his successor when he dies or is forced to resign. Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader, is an unconditional supporter of Chavez and has been his foreign minister for many years. Maduro is not very bright and is very uncharismatic. He cannot succeed Chavez in anything but form. Additionally, when Chavez goes, an election must be held in thirty days, and the interim president during that period is not the vice president but the president of the Legislative Assembly, according to the constitution. The president of the Legislative Assembly is Diosdado Cabello, a former army officer and co-coup plotter with Chavez. He is tough, ruthless, and extremely ambitious. Do we sense a problem here during the period before the election, during which, if Chavez's wish is followed, the government candidate will be Maduro? The possibility of an internal putsch, with elections indefinitely postponed, is there, and all indications are that the armed forces would favor Cabello.
It is also bad news for the other "Bolivarian" countries of the hemisphere, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina. Chavez bought Argentine bonds when no one else would and sent discounted oil to Nicaragua and free oil to Cuba. Ecuador's Correa is already maneuvering to succeed Chavez as leader of the anti-US and anti-Israel bloc in Latin America, but he is not Chavez, and Ecuador is not Venezuela in terms of political and economic weight.
It is also bad news for all the great and petty tyrants in the world, who were all Chavez's friends, from huge Russia's Putin to pathetic Zimbabwe's Mugabe. He knew and liked them all and they all liked him, especially when he showered them with the oil wealth of the Venezuelan people. He facilitated Iran's Ahmadinejad in penetrating the Western Hemisphere, skirting financial sanctions by making it possible for Iran to use Venezuela's financial system. He is sending gasoline to Iran and diesel oil to Assad in Syria.
It is also bad news for criminal drug syndicates and terrorist groups everywhere, from Colombia's FARC and ELN, which he supported, to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, which he aided in raising funds and distributing agents throughout the region. By his actions and through the massive corruption of his regime (rated worst in a recent listing of government corruption in Latin America), he made it possible for the criminal syndicates and the terrorists to support each other, which is now common throughout the world, and has led to the coining of the phrase "narco-terrorism".
It is good news for everyone else. It is good news for supporters of democracy and freedom and the market economy throughout the world. It is particularly good news for the United States and Israel, Chavez's mortal enemies. No thanks to their own policies and actions, because neither country has devoted nearly enough attention to the activities of Chavez and his friends, Chavez's successors both inside Venezuela and in the region will try to maintain his policies but they simply do not have his demonic energy and charisma.
It is good to be prepared and to take timely action. It is even better to be lucky.
Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and a lecturer at The Israeli National Defense College (MABAL), 2011-2012 session.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 17, 2012
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