If Chávez is still around for the 2012 presidential elections, his main opposition comes from Henrique Capriles Radonski, governor of Miranda state. However, Mr Chávez’s mortality or incapacitation would unleash a battle between two factions from within the internally divided United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
Constitutially, the first in the line of succession is the uncharismatic Vice-president Elias Jaua. The vice-president is believed to have the support of Nicolás Maduro, the popular foreign minister, as well as Rafael Ramírez, the energy minister, who also runs the all-important state oil company PDVSA.
The competing faction includes Diosdado Cabello, the powerful former vice-president and military man, as well as Adán Chávez, the president’s older brother and state governor. Cabello’s close ties with the army and Congress make him Venezuela’s second most powerful men.
Would there be any chances of an agreement between the two factions, or would they engage in mortal combat? Is it a zero-sum game or is there any place for cooperation, bargain, and sharing of the spoils? Would the Venezuelan army rise up to the role of mediator and defend the Constitution or would it side with Cabello?