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Venezuela after Hugo Chavez: why US eyes upcoming elections warily (+video)

Hugo Chavez's handpicked heir, Venezuela Vice President Nicolas Maduro, has already signaled that his election campaign will employ the harshest of rhetoric against the US.

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The elaborate public funeral Venezuela will hold for President Hugo Chávez Friday will take place with already troubled US-Venezuela relations at a new low point.

The sour relations have US officials downbeat about prospects for a turnaround between the two countries anytime soon. Beyond that, the onset of a turbulent presidential election campaign that is likely to feature the US as an enemy of the deceased leader’s vision for Latin America will also feed Latin America’s deep divides, analysts say – and  could complicate prospects for US relations with the region.

Political heirs of the fiery and anti-US leader made it clear in the hours following the announcement Tuesday of his passing that the forces of “chavismo,” Mr. Chávez’s brand of populist socialism, intend to stoke the flames of anti-American sentiment as a means of rallying Venezuelans left distraught and confused by the president’s demise.

Chávez’s hand-picked heir apparent, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, accused “imperialist forces” – a clear reference to the US – of infecting Chávez with the disease that took his life. He also announced an investigation into the cause of death that promises to keep the country’s “enemies” at the forefront of Venezuelans’ thought as they adjust to life without Chávez and prepare for a new presidential election.


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