The Unthinkable Succession Talk

Our PRR Team takes a look at the latest moves in the power dynamics within chavismo and the opposition, including that which Chavez never dared consider (until it was too late): preparing for succession

Friday’s political risk report looked at how both sides are reorganizing with elections in mind, where once again the degree of control the government has over them is the main issue. It’s a similar pattern to what we’ve seen for years, except for a couple important details that weren’t present in the pre-election negotiation attempts of the past: 

  • First, we could see more than two people trying to claim the title of Maduro’s dauphin in these elections: his son and Hector Rodríguez. Chavismo is very refractory to succession, to the point that it was an anathema in the Chávez years, until cancer forced the caudillo to declare Maduro his heir. To introduce, even in indirect ways, the idea that Maduro could be replaced with anyone else inside the regime would transform that movement and unleash new power dynamics.
  • Second, the sanctions and how the Biden administration could use them. This factor impacts everything, because it forces the opposition parties and leaders to take a public stance on whether they support sanctions or not, and it forces the government to learn to evade sanctions as a surviving mechanism: the better the economy functions under sanctions, the less the regime will have to concede in negotiations with the opposition. Furthermore, in their efforts to evade sanctions, the regime is leaning ever more on Cuba and Iran, two foreign actors with vast experience of living under sanctions, and who now have an ever-increasing interest—political and financial—in propping up Maduro and making sure the opposition never gets a chance to roll back these international partnerships.

Main topics in the full report:

Winners and losers in PSUV: As we said last week, the Bicentenary Congress of the People, as the PSUV plenary was called this year, is serving as an opportunity for Maduro to settle scores with those he blames in the ruling party (PSUV) for the low turnout in the December 6th legislative elections. Details of the redistribution of power in the full report.

The (possible) end of the Padrino era: A similar situation is developing inside the Ministry of Defense, as the annual promotion of new officers, scheduled for June, approaches. In the past few years, the months before June are the season of “Padrino is out” rumors, as he has remained in active service several years beyond his compulsory retirement date. Padrino’s departure would be felt across the entire structure of the Armed Forces, marking the beginning of a new era for the Venezuelan military. Maduro is well aware of this, and his challenge is to project figures close to Padrino, without destabilizing the military.

A new Norwegian draft: A Norwegian diplomatic delegation visited the country again earlier this week. Unlike previous visits which were exploratory in nature, this time they brought a draft of a negotiation roadmap for the opposition and the government, which would include several other international actors. Details in the full report.

You can download a free sample of the full report here