The late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was one of the most outspoken proponents of socialism in Latin America, which he aimed to solidify as a united movement among leftist governments in the region.
Chavez enjoyed a close relationship with the communist patriarch of Cuba Fidel Castro, whom he considered a mentor. Like Castro before him, Chavez had worked to support socialist movements in other countries.
With Chavez dead and Castro ill and in old-age, there are currently no personalities among Latin American leftists that have the same regional stature to promote the socialist cause, but there are a few who could emerge.
Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela
Chavez’s designated successor and current Venezuelan vice president Nicolas Maduro faces an upcoming presidential election and could follow in his mentor’s footsteps if he wins.
Maduro, 50, a former bus driver and union leader, is considered a strong adherent to Chavez’s socialist movement, though he is said to lack the charisma and assertiveness of the late leader.
Miguel Diaz-Canel, Cuba
Recently appointed Cuban vice president Miguel Diaz-Canel is expected to succeed President Raul Castro in 2018, though the next five years will be a test of whether the Cuban leadership feels he is right for the job.
Diaz-Canel, 52, is a Communist Party loyalist who followed orders, performed his duties efficiently and worked his way up the government hierarchy.
While Diaz-Canel is much more subdued than Fidel Castro in his prime, he could inject new energy into Cuban efforts to promote socialism abroad.
Evo Morales, Bolivia
Bolivian President Evo Morales was a close friend of Chavez, and shared his opposition to U.S. foreign policies, as well as skepticism of multinational corporations operating in Latin America.
Morales, 53, is also South America’s first indigenous leader, lending him a unique credibility as a voice for the socialist movement in the region.
Rafael Correa, Ecuador
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, 49, does not profess a strong socialist ideology, but has aligned many of his policies with leftist governments in Latin America and could rise as a strong regional leader.
Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua
Another close Chavez ally, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, 67, has led a series of socialist reforms in his own country, though he has yet to develop a strong profile on the international stage.
To contact the editor, e-mail: