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You are right. Venezuela's problem is that there are few candidates formidable enough to unite the country. If we think of a left-right divide in the United States, that divide has also been dominant in Venezuela politics under Chavez. VP Nicolas Maduro will certainly be a weaker left candidate than Chavez but will still rally the poor. I think he will still prevail over Henrique Capriles
, the center right opponent favored by conservatives in the last election. Capriles is more centrist than many of the conservative candidates of the past.
Regardless of which candidate wins, the country's economic course forward will be difficult. Although oil is the prime driver of the economy, in the general strike of 2002-2003 Chavez fired 18,000 workers from the state oil company for participating in the strike....40 percent of the workforce including many of their top engineers and scientists. The country has never fully recovered from that "brain drain." Furthermore he has nationalized major industries including oil, agriculture, mining, finance, telecommunications, steel and others. Those nationalizations have not helped out the economy and have discouraged foreign investment by western countries, although China and Iran have filled part of the void. The current inflation rate is hovering just below 30 percent.
Without the windfall profits of high oil prices, the Venezuelan economy would have collapsed.