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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In Pictures Venezuela after Chavez
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Obama reaches out
U.S. President Barack Obama was less effusive about a man who put his country at loggerheads with Washington, saying his administration was interested in "developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government."
In a potentially conciliatory gesture, the United States is expected to send a delegation to the funeral.
Opponents at home hoped for a fresh start.
"Chavez was very dominant and used the powers of state in avery discretional way, as though this was his own estate," Juan Vendrell, a 58-year-old engineer, said in a wealthy neighborhood of Caracas. "I would like a change and for institutions and democracy to be restored."
Chavez led Venezuela for 14 years and had easily won a new six-year term in an election in October, defeating Capriles.
His folksy charisma, anti-U.S. diatribes and oil-financed projects to improve life for residents of long-neglected slums created an unusually powerful bond with many poor Venezuelans.
That intense emotional connection underpinned his rule, but critics saw his autocratic style, gleeful nationalizations and often harsh treatment of rivals as hallmarks of a dictator whose policies squandered a historic bonanza of oil revenues.
The nationalizations and strict currency controls under Chavez frightened off investors. Even some of his followers complained that he focused too much on ideological issues at the expense of day-to-day problems such as power cuts, high inflation, food shortages and violent crime.
Chavez's health declined sharply just after his re-electionon Oct. 7, possibly due to his decision to campaign for a third term instead of stepping aside to focus on his recovery.
The government declared seven days of mourning.
"His legacy will be the transformation of Venezuelan political culture, putting social inequality and poverty alleviation at the top of the political agenda," said Diego Moya-Ocampos, a Venezuela analyst.
"However, that came at the cost of greater authoritarianism in government and challenges to democracy as he sought to consolidate his leadership."
(With reporting by Enrique Andres Pretel, Deisy Buitrago andDaniel Wallis; Editing by Kieran Murray and Eric Walsh)