Venezuela announced the death of President Hugo Chavez on March 6, 2013. Valdai Club experts spoke with ValdaiClub.com about the possible implications for Venezuelan-Russian relations.
Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in chief of the magazine Russia in Global Affairs, said: “After the death of Chavez, Venezuela is in for a fierce political struggle with an unpredictable outcome, because the rule of the current political force is largely linked with Chavez’s personality and his ability to galvanize the masses. He faced a fairly serious opponent from the right-wing opposition in the last election he won, and his party will have a very hard time without him.”
Lukyanov believes that if Chavez’s opponents win the forthcoming elections, Venezuela’s relations with Russia will be more neutral. “Of course, the special relationship that took shape under Chavez was directly linked with him. I think that even if his party wins, this time without him, the big talk of fraternity and friendship will gradually recede and ties with Russia will become more typical of relations between two very distant countries,” Lukyanov said.
Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for Strategy and Technology Analysis, said: “Obviously, military-technical cooperation with Venezuela will not be dropped overnight. Even if the opposition comes to power, all the arms that have been supplied so far won’t be dumped – they will have to be used and serviced. Meanwhile, Russia will continue to make money.”
That said, Pukhov believes the Venezuelan arms market is almost fully saturated, adding, “Even if Hugo Chavez had remained in power, it would have been unrealistic to hope for large new military contracts in the future. So, we have to focus on those we have today.”
Head of the International Institute of Political Expertise Yevgeny Minchenko said: “Russia’s positions in Venezuela will weaken in the long term, but considering that energy and arms cooperation will benefit both Russia and Venezuela, it will continue in the next few years.”
He believes that even with the loss of a leader like Hugo Chavez, his regime has enough support in Venezuela to stay in power: “Acting President Nicolas Maduro has a real chance to be elected and ensure the continuity of the Chavez regime at least for one term. I think this is a likely scenario.” Minchenko does not rule out the possibility that Chavez’s death will split the opposition and that “alternative presidential candidates” will appear.
According to Ana Teresa Gutiérrez Del Cid, professor of Metropolitan autonomous university of Mexico City, after the death of Hugo Chavez the process initiated by him, aimed to reaffirm Venezuela's national interests and focused on the protection of natural resources, is likely to continue with the Nicolás Maduro victory in future elections.
Chavez's death means the loss of strong leadership for Latin America and especially for the countries of ALBA and UNASUR. Chavez promoted the Bolivarian idea of a strong and sovereign Latin America in a moment of great political conservatism in the region. Не was the initiator of a policy of distancing from the Washington Consensus and rejected the extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Surely, Nicolás Maduro will continue an independent policy toward the United States of America and will cooperate with the Russian leadership, with which Venezuela shares the vision of a multipolar world. Maduro will continue ties with the European Union, China and Iran.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.