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When he died last Tuesday of cancer at age 58, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez left a bitterly divided nation with an uncertain future. During his 14-year rule, the feisty, colorful friend to Cuba was a perpetual thorn in the side of the United States, mocking its leadership and courting its enemies even as Venezuela became America’s fourth-largest oil supplier. Surviving several close elections and an attempted coup, Chávez used his nation’s wealth to lavish money on social programs for the poor. On Friday, throngs of his constituents gathered to weep in the streets and world leaders arrived for his state funeral, after which Vice President Nicolás Maduro was sworn in as acting president.
The nation’s future now hinges in large part on the interpretation of a constitutional mandate for a democratic election of Chávez’s successor, and whether Maduro will be permitted to run.
BU Today asked Renata Keller, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of international relations and an expert on Latin American history and relations with the United States, to comment on Chávez’s legacy and speculate on the future of his oil-rich, yet economically divided and increasingly unstable nation.