Chavez’s failing health spells uncertainty for Nicaragua

News Analysis.

President Daniel Ortega last night followed other Latin American presidents in expressing his solidarity with ailing Venezuelan comrade Hugo Chávez, who is again fighting for his life as he undergoes is fourth cancer surgery today in Cuba.

“In the name of the people of Nicaragua, I want to salute our brother, our compañero, the liberator Hugo Chávez Frías, who once again is confronting a great battle that he has been confronting,” Ortega said during a political act Monday night.

Ortega, who has received more than $2.2 billion in Venezuelan largess since 2007, compared Chávez’s “struggle for the liberty of Venezuela, our America and humanity” to the historic efforts by Simon Bolívar, Augusto Sandino and José Martí.

Thanks to Chávez’s leadership in regional projects such as ALBA and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the hemisphere today is “more united than ever,” Ortega said. And the process will continue, the Sandinista strongman insisted.

“The Bolivarian Revolution with compañero Hugo Chávez has planted and the harvest is there in Venezuela and in all of our America, and the harvest is also here in Nicaragua. And there is no turning back in this battle,” Ortega said.

The Sandinista Youth this week made some pious noise by organizing a group prayer session on Sunday night. More than 5,000 identically dressed members of the Sandinista Youth gathered in Managua’s Bible Park Sunday night to light candles, hold hands, raise their palms to the heavens and pray collectively for Chávez’s health.

The golden coin toss

Though Chávez, 58, has been publically battling cancer since mid 2011, he declared himself fully recovered prior to his successful reelection bid last October. Two months after being elected to another six years in office, Chávez is back in Cuba for another cancer surgery that even he seems to think is a long-shot.

The Venezuelan president’s address to the nation Saturday night sounded like a farewell speech. After explaining that the cancer had returned, a somber Chávez named his vice-president and foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, as successor.

Chávez’s failing health has caused considerable political and economic uncertainly in Venezuela and Nicaragua. Though he finally appointed his successor, the Venezuelan voters will ultimately have the final say over who comes after Chávez. And that’s why analysts say the events of the next few days could determine the future of Venezuela, ALBA and even Nicaragua.

If the president-elect dies before his Jan. 10 inauguration, the head of Venezuela’s congress becomes the interim president and a new election would be held in 30 days. But, according to Nicaraguan political analyst Oscar Rene Vargas, if Chávez dies after his inauguration in January, Vice President Maduro would essentially be the incumbent candidate, which makes a big difference.

“Right now there is a golden coin in the air and we don’t know how it is going to land,” Vargas told The Nicaragua Dispatch.

If opposition political leader Henrique Capriles, who lost his first presidential bid to Chávez last October by 10 points, were to win in a second-chance election against Maduro in the next few months, ALBA—as Nicaragua knows it—would most likely end, analysts claim. And even if Maduro continues at the head of the “Bolivarian Revolution” for the next six years, without Chávez the ALBA project would probably start to wither on the vine, Vargas predicts.

 “ALBA might last a few more years, but geopolitically Venezuela would need to look more toward Brazil to defend itself from the U.S.,” Vargas says. Nicaragua, he says, would become far less important to Venezuela without Chávez in the picture to keep the relationship alive.

That would also cast a longer shadow of doubt over long-term Venezuelan-backed megaprojects such as the Supreme Dream of Bolivar Oil Refinery, the analyst says.

New management in Venezuela would also spell uncertainty for the Sandinistas’ main financial arm, ALBA de Nicaragua, S.A. (ALBANISA), a company that is 51% owned by Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) and 49% owned by Empresa Nicaragüense de Petróleo (PETRONIC). ALBANISA currently receives hundreds of millions of dollars in concessional loans generate from  deal that sends 50% of Nicaragua’s oil bill into a trust fund that is owned by PDVSA but managed by ALBANISA.

The current arrangement between Chávez and Ortega nets an average of $500 million for the Sandinista government each year. In comparison, all other forms of aid that enter Nicaragua each year from multi-lateral lenders and bilateral donors totals $360 million, according to the 2013 budget.

Some analysts think political change in Venezuela could even get nasty for Nicaragua.

“The ALBA relationship between Venezuela and Nicaragua has never been totally clear, and when it comes to the end people are going to try to figure out what happened,” says ex-foreign minister and former opposition congressman Francisco Aguirre. “Venezuelans are going to want to know what happened to all the money they gave Nicaragua. And that’s when the witch hunt begins and that’s when the shit will hit the fan.”

  • Ron Dewey

    The Nicaraguan leeches are shaking like leaves!!

  • John Shepard

    Venezuela needs to look towards Venezuela, as Nicaragua has finally begun to look towards Nicaragua IMHO. Eye-poking the US plays well to the base but does little to solve the real problems Venezuela faces.

    Venezuela is a basket case. Hugo had his fifteen minutes. Thanks to the Cubans and his money he got a much longer run than anyone else in his condition could have expected.

    Brazil is looking forward, not backwards. The Olympics are coming. The favelas above Rio are being cleared out and pacified. Brazil is energy independent, with potential reserves yet to be explored.

    You can walk around Rio 24/7 with no fear of robbery or assault. You can drive without hassles. I know, I did both. The gangs know that the tourists are not to be touched. You may not agree with the police methods, but they HAVE been effective.

    Why would Brazil have anything to do with Venezuela?

  • Fred

    I’ve had a change to go back and read Tim Rogers articles concerning Albanista going back to days he wrote in the Christian Science Monitor.

    What really sticks out is that the people of Nicaragua have always paid world price for Oil including electric generation and gasoline. The ‘deal’ is that roughly 50% of that price has been kicked back into Albanista by way of loans with a payback date twenty odd years in the future. That money has been invested in Nicaraugua at the direction of the Sandanista Party and obviously the President. No doubt those investments pay a good amount of money to Sandanista Officials but that’s just a guess as not much detail is ever provided as to Albanista activities as it’s considered a private company.

    Best thing I can say about the whole deal is that it provides a very big trough for Sandanista members to eat from instead of pillaging Government and Private Sector. When it disappears or those loans are called for payment then things will get interesting.

  • Carla Chamorro

    Blame Hollywood!

    The only reason the Mainstream Media blames guns is to avoid blaming those who are actually providing the instructions and inspiration to violence: Hollywood and their never ending production of violent garbage. And that’s before they go wine and dine at the White House or appear at their shows lying to America about Bengahsi or showing up at at their night shows promoting their taking over of America. They even give awards to their help as was the case with Letterman recently.
    This is something we learned in Latin America the hard way via Fidel Castro and is the control of the masses by few for “the good of the people” or Communism for short. Wake up America, you may need to use your 2nd amendment, that’s the reason why it is there!

  • jukian

    The People of Nicaragua are week.Danny Ortega stold so much money his first communist years and used entitlments to the poor majority which is how he stays.Danny ortega has only a fourth grade education as much of Nicaragua does and so the campasinos relate and he remains the nut in power in such a poverty stricken country.Heck Danny has even hoarded Hugo chavez frias money.LOL Dany Ortega the disguised pink shirted commy hater of life.