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Nicolas Maduro won Venezuela’s elections… now what?

Adrian Salbuchi
Adrian Salbuchi is an international political analyst, researcher and consultant. Author of several books on geopolitics in Spanish and English (including ‘The Coming World Government: Tragedy & Hope’), he is also a conference speaker in Argentina and radio/TV commentator. He writes op-ed pieces for RT Spanish as well as RT English, and is a regular guest on alternative media radio and TV shows in the US, Europe and Latin America. Adrian currently hosts his TV show ‘Segunda República’ on Channel TLV1 – Toda La Verdad Primero – in Buenos Aires, and is founder of the Second Republic Project (Proyecto Segunda República), a sovereign governance model for Argentina, Latin American countries and elsewhere. His website is: www.asalbuchi.com.ar; YouTube channel:www.youtube.com/user/arsalbuchi
Nicolas Maduro won Venezuela’s elections… now what?
What a tight election! Hugo Chavez’s chosen successor, “spiritual son” and incumbent Nicolás Maduro: 50.66% of the votes; US and Western global media-backed right-wing opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski: 49.07% of the votes. This spells trouble ahead.

A worst case scenario

Sunday’s presidential election results in Venezuela may very well turn out to be the worst for that country and bad for Latin America too.  The death early last month of President Hugo Chávez triggered new constitutionally mandated elections that couldn’t come at a worse time.  Chavez was such a strong figure who so polarized the Venezuelan populace that more time to stabilize the country would have been a truly good thing.  Hardly had Chavez’s funeral ended, than Venezuelans were confronted with a new, highly impassioned presidential election: the second one in six months.

Possible election results basically fit into three scenarios with widely varying projections:

Scenario 1 – Good

If Nicolás Maduro had obtained a clear and comfortable – even if not a landslide – victory over his opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski.  After all, last December a terminally ill and just re-elected President Hugo Chavez publicly told Venezuelans to choose Maduro as their president if anything were to happen to him.  Maduro, however, is no 'Comandante' Chávez and during his campaign he leaned a bit too much on the 'Comandante’s' (still) lasting image, influence and emotional leverage.

But it seems that the ruling party did not quite grasp that these elections were not just about having Chavistas vote for Maduro but also about convincing their opponents and many undecided voters that Maduro was fit to lead a new stage in the Bolivarian Revolution. That he could and would play a different tune to Chavez’s that would make him more appealing to non-Chavistas who are very weary with Chávez’s authoritarian style, many Venezuelans felt was out-of-touch with today’s world.

Maduro’s campaign surfed on Chávez’s strong political waves, going so far as to claim that a little bird had somehow mysteriously whispered to him beyond-death messages from the 'Comandante' himself, guiding him on to victory.  That did not play well with most people, even his own followers.  To a great extent his campaign ended up being one of Chávez – not Maduro – versus Capriles Radonski, but with an obvious political handicap: Hugo Chavez is no more.
Anyway, a clear victory for Maduro would have left Venezuela under the continued strong “spiritual” leadership of Chavez through his favorite son, Maduro, and would have given the latter the time he and Venezuelans need to overcome post-Chavez trauma and to reform.

Surely, Maduro would have to overcome many dangers.  A strange coincidence made these new elections coincide with the eleventh anniversary of the failed US-orchestrated and backed coup of April 2002 against Chavez in which Capriles Radonski was an active player.  Clearly, CIA-Mossad “dirty tricks” inside Venezuela will intensify as they keep trying to engineer social strife and – why not? – outright civil war if necessary, to ensure Venezuelan “regime change” goes Washington’s way.  A likely kick-off region for a “Latin American Spring…”  

Let us not forget all the field experience and technological meddling in the affairs of other countries expertise that the “Arab Spring” has given the US, Mossad and allies over the past three years. 

Nevertheless, with a clear majority of the votes Maduro would have weathered a reasonable transition leading Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution without Chavez.

Scenario 2 – Bad

A clear victory for Henrique Capriles Radonski would have firmly aligned Venezuela to US interests and policies. Its impact would have been a complete overhaul of economic policies – deregulation, market economy, privatizations, intensified trade with the US and greater discipline in global oil markets – together with other US and Global Power Elite-mandated measures, least of which would have been full foreign policy re-alignment, wrenching Venezuela away from the independent policies of Chavez with key nations like Russia, Iran and China, and cozying up to the US, European Union and Israel. 

This would have been bad for millions of Venezuelans, especially the poorer classes, particularly after seeing what such policies have done in countries like Argentina and the weaker Southern European nations.  But US and banker billions, plus US military “advisors”, plus US corporate “investments” would have ensured “stability” for Capriles.  He would easily become another US darling in the region, similar to Alvaro Uribe and Juan Manuel Santos in Colombia, so US propping up and support would definitely not have been lacking.

Venezuelan President elect Nicolas Maduro (L) celebrates with his wife Cilia Flores after knowing the election results in Caracas on April 14, 2013 (AFP Photo)

Scenario 3 – Ugly

But neither of the above happened.  Instead we had both candidates head-to-head each receiving almost exactly half of the votes cast last Sunday, leaving Venezuela so very split into two completely different political outlooks on the world, the economy and foreign policy. 

Half of the country identifies with leftist socialism and considers the US and its allies as “The Enemy”, leaning towards Russia, China and Iran.  The other half, however, believes exactly the opposite.

Adding insult to injury, the ruling Chavistas have not all quite grasped what has happened: upon hearing of the official election results, the President of Venezuela’s General Assembly, Diosdado Cabello said that Chavistas “must make a deep self-criticism because it is contradictory for poor sectors of our population to vote in favor of those who have always been exploiting them”.  Be it as it may, the fact is that Chavistas without Chavez are not quite getting the message across to all the people.

A House divided…

No one really knows how things will work out in the weeks to come. Henrique Capriles immediately cried “fraud”, which is not surprising as he has been threatening to do that for weeks now “just in case”.  A 234,000 vote edge for Maduro is so very small that Capriles Radonski can definitely make a lot of noise even with Maduro officially inaugurated, especially since Washington is already snooping around suggesting a recount of the votes is necessary.

Capriles Radonski is demanding a full audit of the votes which Maduro conceded within the legal framework governing Venezuela’s electoral system which, by the way, is one of the most modern and transparent in Latin America.   

But, aside from any minor differences that can be found in any voter audit, the truth is that Mr. Capriles did very well in Sunday’s elections. 

What could happen after any vote recount: either Maduro’s very slim victory is confirmed which, all circumstances considered, would still leave him as a weak president with a hugely strong and enraged opposition or, alternatively, Capriles Radonski might be able to show that he won - but again by a very, very slim margin. 

He would then become a “president for change” challenged by a hugely resentful opposition which even if ousted from formal power would still retain well-trained and organized social and militant organizations outside of government.  They could literally block Capriles Radonski’s every move.

Add to this neighboring Colombia’s continued enmity towards a Bolivarian Venezuela, obviously egged on by the US and banking circles.  Colombia is a key US ally in the Region; so much so that even a moderate Colombian President like Juan Manuel Santos is himself a member of David Rockefeller’s and John Negroponte’s New York-based “Americas Society” think-tank.  Add to this that other countries in the region are being used as a base for all sorts of dirty tricks against Maduro (El Salvador, for example).Add to this the growing political turmoil on a global scale that will represent huge challenges for all the countries in our region and not just Venezuela…  A bad equation, no doubt.

The outcome of events in Venezuela will have a strong impact on the entire region and, further afield, on key global players like Iran, Russia and China, whose relations with Latin America would only be weakened by a pro-US Venezuela under Capriles Radonski.  Not just in economic terms but, more importantly, from a geostrategic viewpoint.

The United States needs to exert firmer control over its Latin American “backyard” considering its own mounting economic, political and even military difficulties in other parts of the world.  The US already observes with growing suspicion many actions on the part of regional powerhouse Brazil which - although a traditional and continued friend of the US - is no longer willing to be an underdog ally of the US. 

And then there are the other counties in the region who have supported the Bolivarian ideal – Bolivia and Ecuador most notably – but which are weak countries where the US will surely increase its internal meddling if Venezuela were to weaken on account of impending internal strife.

Supporters of Venezuelan acting President Nicolas Maduro celebrate after knowing the election results in Caracas on April 14, 2013 (Reuters / Luis Acosta)

Argentina too, where Cristina Kirchner’s government has “made believe” it is aligned with Chavez, in fact only seems to have one overriding goal: preserving their ill-gotten wealth, which is now coming to a head in a country where the stench of corruption reaches to high heaven.

So even regional “friendly support” for Maduro will weaken.

In short, the real dangers for Venezuela today - and for Latin America in the months and years to come - is that in today’s perilous world they had better get their act right fast or face dire consequences.

For Venezuela in particular the message is clear: a house divided cannot stand.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.