Venezuela to Have Elections in 30 Days Following Death of President Hugo Chavez

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By Vittorio Hernandez | March 6, 2013 12:01 PM EST

Besides the soon-to-be-set conclave in Vatican City to elect a new pope, there will be another major election that the world will be monitoring. Venezuela would have a presidential election within 30 days following the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday.

Until the new president assumes power, the country's succession process identifies the head of the national assembly as the interim leader. That would mean the world's largest oil exporting country must be led by Diosdado Cabello, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro said in January when Mr Chavez was still battling cancer.

The 58-year-old strongman died of cancer in Caracas after a two-year bout with the ailment. While the Venezuelan constitution mandated that the National Assembly head should be the interim leader, Mr Chavez handpicked Mr Maduro as his successor in December.

Mr Maduro is a former bus driver and served as spokesman of Mr Chavez. He is known for echoing the former president's sentiments and if he prevails or is elected president, observers said he will be a Chavez 2.0.

Mr Chavez described the 50-year-old vice president as "a complete revolutionary, a man of great experience despite his youth, with great dedication and capacity for work, for leading, for handling the most difficult situations."

Mr Maduro was appointed Foreign Affairs minister in 2006 and prior to that served as Speaker of the National Assembly. He first met Mr Chavez in 1994 after the latter, then a paratrooper, was released from prison after leading a failed military coup attempt.

With Mr Chavez's death, political observers said Mr Maduro is for the first time no longer under the former president's long shadow and he may not behave anymore as a Chavista, said Professor Victor Bulmer-Thomas from the Institute of the Americas of the University College London.

Even in his death, Mr Chavez has remain popular with Venezuelans, so his Friday funeral is expected to be a huge one and could even rival the death of former Argentinean First Lady Evita Peron.

Mr Chavez, in his 14 years rule, was known for impromptu policymaking such as handpicking Mr Maduro despite the constitution's rule on succession. One such quick-fix solution he put in place to address economic problems if the frequent currency devaluations, the latest being in February when the bolivar was devalued by 32 per cent.

BBC said what Mr Chavez left behind for his successor to take over is a crumbling infrastructure, unsustainable public spending and underperforming economy. The Guardian aptly described Mr Chavez's successor as inheriting a poisoned chalice.

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