Venezuela’s elections commission announced Saturday that voters will go to the polls on April 14 to choose a successor to President Hugo Chavez, who died this week after a battle with cancer. The nation’s constitution mandated that an election be called within 30 days of Chavez’s death on March 5, but the scheduled date falls outside of that window. Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s vice president, was sworn in as interim leader on Friday. Opposition coalition leader and state governor Henrique Capriles, who ran against Chavez in the October election, has disputed Maduro’s right to be interim leader. Capriles is expected to be the opposition candidate against Maduro in the special election, though many in his party are concerned about the vote’s fairness.
In the days leading up to Chavez’s funeral on Friday, mourners paid tribute to the former leader known for his boisterous leadership and outsized personality. Following in the footsteps of other leaders like Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin and more recently North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, Chavez’s body will be embalmed and put permanently on display, Maduro said Thursday.
Chavez has been compared to other Latin American revolutionary figures like Simon Bolivar and Fidel Castro, but Argentine journalist Andres Oppenheimer told weekends on All Things Considered host Jacki Lyden that there are also parallels between Chavez and Juan Peron, Argentina’s former president, who was first elected in 1946.
“Like Chavez, [Peron] was a military man; like Chavez, he was a coup plotter,” Oppenheimer says. “He [also] was elected president and benefited from a huge commodity boom and started giving away money to the poor.”
Chavez is credited with using Venezuela’s vast oil reserves to bolster other Latin America countries and bring in billions to his nation’s economy. Many supporters referred to him as “the president of the poor,” another trait he shared with Peron.