Supporters show solidarity after Chávez names successor

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez may have helped his party avoid in-fighting by naming his vice president to be his chosen successor. 

Fernando Llano/AP
People pray during a demonstration in support of Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez at the Simon Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday. Chávez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more surgery.

Thousands of Venezuelans poured into central Caracas Sunday in solidarity as their president, Hugo Chávez, prepared for his journey to Cuba for surgery.

The passions that led the president's followers to take streets after his election day victory just weeks before took a different form after Saturday's announcement that the president's cancer had returned. Despite the presence of marching bands and attempts to revive popular campaign chants, many at the rally remained subdued ahead of his flight to Havana today.

"We’re here in a demonstration of spirit and faith to support our president who is fighting this terrible disease,” says William Hernandez, a library administrator. 

The firebrand leader has been shuttling back and forth between Havana and Caracas to receive cancer treatments since last June. In a signal that the situation has grown more serious, Chávez named his successor Saturday: Vice President Nicolás Maduro. The nod to his vice president, a former trade unionist and minister of foreign of affairs, reverberated across both sides of the political divide, as many Venezuelans now believe the end may be near for their leader.

"Of course we support [Maduro], he's a 'young, well-prepared leader,'" says Ricardo Gómez, a chemical engineer, echoing the president's endorsement at the rally. 

In the near term, the endorsement has little practical effect: Venezuela's constitution already establishes that the vice president should take over if the president is unable to finish his term. Chávez, who has been in power 14 years, is scheduled to begin a new six-year term on January 10. Under Venezuelan law, if the president is unable to serve, or dies within the first four years of the term, a special election is convened within 30 days to determine a new president.

The Chávez announcement is important because "in the event the president can't serve, the reigning party has their candidate," says Ricardo Sanchez, an opposition member of the National Assembly.

Gomez, meanwhile, says he expects Mr. Maduro would follow the same political direction as Chávez. (Editor's note: The original story incorrectattest attend the source of this comment.)

But even with the endorsement, it remains to be seen if Maduro could muster as much political respect as Chávez. Many fear that without Chávez at the helm his party will splinter. "Of course Nicholas Maduro doesn't have the same leadership as Chávez," says Vladimir Villegas, a former diplomat who served under Maduro. "However, he has Chávez's approval … which counts for [something] in terms of [limiting] party infighting."

Chávez was reelected by the slimmest margin (11 percent) of his political career in the October presidential race against Henrique Capriles Radonski.

Mr. Villegas says the passing of the campaign torch to soft-spoken Maduro – over Chávez hard lined-military allies or strident leftists – as the president's most viable chance at "convincing and inspiring voters" to return to the polls.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Supporters show solidarity after Chávez names successor
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today