On April 14, Venezuelans went to the polls to choose their president, and for the first time in 15 years, late President Hugo Chávez was not on the ballot. After Chávez succumbed to cancer in early March, many polls and analyses predicted the continuation of Chavismo through the election of Nicolas Maduro, the acting president and Chávez’s handpicked successor. Maduro did win the vote, but not by the wide margin that many had anticipated: he prevailed over opposition candidate Henrique Capriles by only one to two percentage points out of nearly 15 million votes cast. Venezuela’s National Electoral Council has declared Maduro the winner, and he is due to be sworn in as president on April 19. But Capriles has yet to concede defeat, alleging voting irregularities and demanding a full audit of the ballots.
WOLA Senior Fellow David Smilde, who was in Venezuela for the April 14 vote as well as the October 2012 elections, discussed these developments as he sketches a picture of the country as the post-Chávez era begins.
To follow the events in Venezuela as they unfold, please visit WOLA's Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights blog.