But make no mistake: Even at the height of his cancer, Chávez was never as weak as Maduro is now. Even within his own party, the knives are out. Maduro’s main rival, the powerful National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, has already spoken of his displeasure at the way the election outcome is being handled. Over the next few days, chavismo is likely to fragment into at least two camps: the first is pro-Maduro, which is orthodoxy socialist and devoted to the Cuban regime, while the other, which contains leaders like Cabello, is more nationalist in orientation and frustrated with the regime’s ongoing subservience to Havana.
Mindful of the violence that accompanied the 2002 attempted coup against Chávez, the opposition is seeking a peaceful path. In that sense, it is vital that the world’s democracies, among them the United States, the European Union and the members of the Organization of American States (OAS,) join our call for a recount. They should also refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Maduro’s victory until we have a result that is beyond dispute.
Perhaps the most tragic aspect of all this is the state of Venezuela itself. Our economy is collapsing, food shortages are growing and the guardian of our most precious resource, the state-owned PDVSA oil company, has been wrecked by more than a decade of chavista misrule. We desperately need a transparent, responsible government to address the crisis. Sadly, like so many of the revolutionary movements throughout history, the chavistas believe that crisis is opportunity.
Antonio Herrera-Vaillant is a spokesman for freevenezuela.org, an online campaign working for freedom and democracy in Venezuela.