Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has overcome a recent respiratory infection, but his battle against cancer continues. Chavez has been in Cuba receiving medical treatment since early December, and vice president Nicolas Maduro has been named a likely successor. But the loss of Chavez could spur dissent among Venezuelan leaders. Should Chavez not return to serve out the rest of his fourth term as president, there could be a major shift in the country’s foreign and domestic policies, which have been dominated by Chavez’s socialist ideals.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who was recently nominated as U.S. Secretary of State, described the ordeal as a chance for change in Venezuela. “Depending on what will happen in Venezuela, there could be a real opportunity of transition there,” he said during a confirmation conference. Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Venezuela have been increasingly strained in recent years.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua chided Kerry for his comments, questioning the authority of the senator’s statements on Venezuelan affairs prior to taking office. “We hope this is corrected. Relations with Venezuela have to be based on mutual respect,” Jaua said during a press conference Thursday.
Venezuelan Minister of the Interior and Justice Nestor Reverol also held a press conference Thursday, pledging to protect interim leaders Maduro and Congress Speaker Diosdado Cabello, who were both named in an alleged assassination plot crafted by the country’s ultra right wing.
“Yesterday we were informed about another destabilization plan of the Venezuelan ultra right wing at home, in combination with ultra right wing actors abroad, intended to kill Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro and Congress’ Speaker Diosdado Cabello,” Reverol said.
“We will not let destabilization by the ultra right wing to move even an inch. Police and intelligence services are on the alert. Security measures for comrades (Maduro and Cabello) have been reinforced,” he added.