CARACAS – With the death of Hugo Chávez, Chávismo has lost its supremacy in Venezuela. It does not matter that so-called Chávistas still control Venezuela’s parliament, 17 of 23 provincial governments, and all key state institutions, including the judiciary. Nor does it matter that Chávez’s handpicked successor, Nicolás Maduro, has already assumed the presidency. All of the signs point to the decline of Chávismo and to the end of Venezuela’s role as Latin America’s populist core.
Between last October’s presidential election and the one held last month, Chávismo lost almost 700,000 votes to Henrique Capriles’ Democratic Unity Roundtable – a shift that many, including Chávistas, attribute to “Maduro not being Chávez.” This was the first presidential election in Venezuela that resulted in an almost even split among voters (and the outcome itself remains hotly contested). If Venezuela continues along this path, Chávismo could not only lose its majority; it could collapse altogether.