Venezuela has been gripped by political crisis amid speculation that long serving left wing president Hugo Chavez could be at death’s door.
He was set to be sworn in for a new six year term on Thursday of this week after winning the recent elections. But vice president Nicolas Maduro has said this may be postponed.
Chavez is in hospital in Cuba with breathing problems caused by a severe respiratory infection following cancer surgery last year.
The right wing opposition in Venezuela is even stirring up a fuss about whether there might be a cover-up of Chavez already being dead.
Chavez was first elected on a wave of revulsion against the neoliberal parties that had ruled Venezuela for decades.
Without him, Venezuela will face a choice between a power struggle at the top, or a mass movement from below that could build a new kind of society.
Hugo Chavez was first elected in 1998. He promised independence from US imperialism and reform of the corrupt state machine.
At points he took radical measures, such as placing the state oil company under direct state control. This money was used to fund social programmes. Chavez became very popular with workers and poor people.
In 2002 tens of thousands of poor Venezuelans mobilised to defend him from a coup and a bosses’ strike.
But at the same time a new elite was emerging. This bureaucracy slowly stifled mass struggles. The power of the state became concentrated in Chavez himself. That’s why the remaining leadership is already in crisis.