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Four Chavista leaders vying to replace President Nicolás Maduro after recall

  • Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro.

    Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro.  (AP Foto/Ariana Cubillos)

  • A protest against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016.

    A protest against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016.  (ap)

Now that they have managed to prevent a presidential recall vote from happening this year, government leaders in Venezuela are preparing for the very likely possibility that a 2017 referendum will indeed eject President Nicolas Maduro from office — but grant him the constitutional right to designate his vice president as his successor until the next election.

So the question has now become: Who will be the one sitting at the Presidential Palace of Miraflores in place of Maduro until January 2019, when someone else is sworn in?

The current vice president is a little known college professor called Aristobulo Isturiz, but since his is not an elected position, he can be replaced at will.

The back-and-forths on the issue within the socialist party’s leadership are no longer a secret, but they seem as chaotic and hopeless as everything else in this crisis-stricken country.

Francisco Ameliach, governor of Carabobo and electoral coordinator of the ruling party, has said that former Assembly Speaker and strong Chavista leader Diosdado Cabello will be the party’s pick — an announcement some say is aimed at discouraging the vote altogether.

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“The truth is that the Chavista project doesn’t have a strong leadership. When Ameliach says that Cabello could be the president, he is applying a strategy to discourage those who want the recall,” said political scientist Luis Salamanca to Fox News Latino.

“It is like saying ‘Beware, the bogeyman is coming’,” he said.

But other names have also been mentioned by Ameliach and other high-ranking Chavistas as possible VPs: among them, Governor of Aragua Tareck El Aissami, Mayor of Caracas Jorge Rodriguez and General Vladimir Padrino, the powerful Secretary of Defense.

Salamanca said none of them are good presidential material because they just would continue the failed socialist project. He predicts that a Cabello presidency would radicalize the attacks against the opposition and argues that El Aissami doesn’t have the experience that it takes. As for Padrino, Salamanca says there is a risk he would increase the militarization.

Henrique Capriles, one of the main opposition leaders, says the government remains divided about who will be de next vice-president. “The options are three: Cabello, El Aissami and Padrino. Maduro feels cornered. Cabello is the most radical; he’s seeking an implosion,” he told FNL.

Nicmer Evans, a prominent Chavista, acknowledged there is an ongoing effort to keep the Chavista project alive.

“It is not an issue that is being debated publically, but there are sectors in the government negotiating the presidency of Maduro,” Evans said.

“They’re even negotiating with oppositions leaders.”

Alex Vasquez is a freelance reporter living in Caracas, Venezuela.