Chavez has not groomed a successor or built institutions that can manage a transition. He has concentrated all power in his hands, providing a focus for the opposition and leaving no space for any other leader.
Among Chavez’s potential successors: the general-in-chief of the military, accused by the Treasury Department of having ties to international narcotics smuggling organizations; leaders of various armed militias and paramilitary groups that Chavez uses to balance the power of the military; Russian-style oligarchs known as los boliburgueses; Cuba-tilting officers and politicians; and many others.But luckily he isn’t going anywhere soon:
Chavez has made clear that he will be a candidate in the 2012 presidential election and that victory is inevitable. “El Comandante ” has referred to 2031 as his time horizon for holding on to power — and he is quick to clarify that his tenure could well go beyond that.
This could be trouble. America’s basic strategy for coping with Chavez is to roll our eyes, sigh, and ignore. That will be harder to maintain if his successor is a drug smuggling crime lord. Should Uncle Sam send Hugo a card and some flowers?