Hugo Chavez is dead.
The Venezuelan president lost his rather violent struggle with cancer today. Chavez first said he had cancer in 2011, though he kept the exact type a secret. He underwent four different surgeries in Cuba, the last in December. It wasn’t enough. He was only 58.
Hugo Chavez had just won another six-year term last October with 54% of the vote. He campaigned on his platform of 21st-century socialism, the “Bolivarian revolution” as he called it: using Venezuela’s oil wealth to fund social programs (and prop up his own popularity).
Chavez was a great one for tangling with American leaders, especially President George W. Bush. He spoke the day after Bush at the United Nations in 2006, and in an inspired bit of rhetoric he crossed himself at the podium and said, “The devil came here yesterday… and it still smells of sulfur.”
Hugo Chavez knew how to push buttons. The people of Venezuela ate it up, which is why he was in power for 14 years. But no more.
The vote should be held within 30 days and will likely pit Maduro against Henrique Capriles, the centrist opposition leader and state governor who lost to Chavez in the October election.One recent opinion poll gave Maduro a strong lead because he is Chavez’s preferred successor, enjoys support among many if the working class and could benefit from an inevitable surge of emotion in the coming days.