Home Politics Anti-American Attitude in Venezuela Won’t Die with Chávez, Says Professor

Anti-American Attitude in Venezuela Won’t Die with Chávez, Says Professor

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The tense relationship between the United States and Venezuela is unlikely to alleviate upon Chavez’s death.

The former president of Venezuela, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, died on March 5, at the age of 58, and thus ended his 14-year reign of power.

Dr. Luis Clemente, a professor in the Graduate Program in Latin American Studies at Ohio University, said the relationship between Venezuela and the U.S would remain just about the same as before because the two countries still do not trust each other.

“I do not believe there will be an improvement in relations,” he said.

Chávez’s successor, the interim president as well as Vice President Nicolas Maduro, is believed to be more likely to win the presidential campaign on April 14. Chávez formed and led the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). PSUV is currently the ruling party of Venezuela. In 2007, several parties were merged together, including the Fifth Republic Movement political party.

“It [PSUV] depends largely on Chávez’s charisma,” Clemente said.

In a related aspect, Clemente also asserted that whether Acting President Nicolás Maduro would be successful may depend on his ability to bring the party’s many factions together.  Although it is said that Maduro has abilities as a negotiator, Clemente was doubtful that he would be charismatic enough to make sure that chavismo (the political movement created around Chávez) would survive its founder.

Maduro accused the United States of a conspiracy to the death of Chávez, according to CNN, an accusation vehemently denied by the U.S. government. His announcement is not encouraging towards the future of the two countries’ relation.

“I understand that rumor, [it’s] not very surprising,” Clemente said. He said that those who accused the US may have a strong precedent in prior assassination attempts on former Cuban leader Fidel Castro; hence, Chávez’s supporters believed that his open criticism of the United States might have been enough to make him a target of a political assassination.

Carl Meacham of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a CNN report, “For the next month or so, Maduro has to show he is even more Chávez than Chávez was. That means he is going to be more anti-American, more anti-capitalist, more anti-systemic. As far as a rapprochement, I don’t see it coming anytime soon.”   “Nicolas grew under the shadow of Chávez,” Clemente said.
He added that now since the personal charisma of Chavez is gone, it is time to figure out whether Maduro would be charismatic enough.

The reception by U.S. media of the news of Chávez’s passing, in Clemente’s opinion, was mixed. He pointed out that certain publications, such as the progressive-leaning “NACLA Report on the Americas,” lionized the man and his accomplishments in social justice, while mainstream newspapers were quick to mention his controversial political style and less-than-democratic methods.

Chávez is believed to alleviate the most impoverished of Venezuela and to wreck people’s liberties by suppressing freedom of speech.

“Chávez’s case is both complex and fascinating. Some people brand him a hero and some a villain,” Clemente said. “[He is] a little bit of both.”

Clemente said that the passing of Chávez had a very monumental impact in Venezuela, judging from the images of tens of thousands of Venezuelans lining the streets of Caracas on the funeral procession.

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