How Post-Chávez era depends on Maduro
The death of longtime Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, leaves questions about that country's future. Vice President Nicolas Maduro is the likely successor, but it's unclear whether he will pursue the same socialist policies as his predecessor. A state funeral for Chávez will take place on Friday.
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Some have suggested Maduro might try to ease tensions with Western investors and the U.S. government. Yet hours before Chavez's death, Maduro alleged that "imperialist" enemies had infected the president with cancer and he expelled two U.S. diplomats accused of conspiring with domestic opponents.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Venezuela after Chavez
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A victory by Capriles, 40, a centrist politician who calls Brazil his model for Venezuela, would bring big changes and be welcomed by business groups, although he would probably move cautiously at first to lower the risk of political instability.
"Don't be scared. Don't be anxious. Between us all, we're going to guarantee the peace this beloved country deserves," Capriles said in a condolence message, calling for unity and respect for the loss that many felt after Chavez's death.
The stakes are also huge for Latin America, given the crucial economic aid and cheap fuel that Chavez sent to allied leftist governments across the region.
Venezuela's military commanders pledged loyalty to Maduro, who will be caretaker leader until the election, and soldiers fired 21-gun salutes to Chavez in barracks across the nation.
Venezuelan debt prices fell on Wednesday as investors opted to lock in gains chalked up in anticipation of Chavez's death, citing short-term political uncertainty.
It was not immediately clear where Chavez would be buried.
He had ordered a striking new mausoleum built in downtown Caracas for the remains of 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar, his inspiration, and it is due to be finished soon. Some allies are already saying he should be buried there.
Despite the tumult around the coffin procession, much of Caracas was quiet, with streets deserted, especially in wealthier districts. Many shops locked their doors out of fear of looting. There were long lines outside gasoline stations.
"This has hit me very hard, I'm still in shock," said Leny Bolivar, a 39-year-old education ministry worker, her eyes redfrom tears. "We must keep fighting; he set out the way."