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The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, died yesterday as a result of the cancer he has been battling. News sources worldwide are now considering the implications of his death and what this could mean for future relations with other nations. Chavez was serving his fourth term as President after he changed the Venezuelan Constitution to allow a President unlimited elections. As a charismatic leader who was in touch with his people and used his power in both controversial and benevolent ways, his death creates a void not easily filled. His appointed successor is Vice-President Nicolas Maduro and he will serve at least until elections are held, likely in a month. Already, the Venezuelan Military Defense Minister Admiral Diego Molero is aligning with Maduro in opposition to Henrique Capriles, the only alternate choice in the election: This, counter to the Constitution which requires the military remain neutral.
So this raises questions for anyone who travels to Venezuela on business. As many executives travel to the nation regularly, especially on oil-related business, these questions pose significant importance. The first question is naturally,
‘Will Chavez’ death change the why air traffic enters and leaves the country?’
According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, Chavez had just imposed air restrictions on Columbia. These restrictions were imposed as a result of Columbia’s President Álvaro Uribe’s decision to allow the United States to operate from military bases located in that nation. The restrictions do not permit any flights from Columbia into Venezuela and limit a single Venezuelan airline to fly into the neighboring nation. As reported in the LAHT article, these restrictions have already cost thousands of jobs between the nations and are expected to cost more. The reason given for the restrictions is that Chavez believed that the United States was planning to have him assassinated by using Columbia as a launching post for that effort. But that restriction does not affect current air traffic, especially from executives traveling to Venezuela now, though had Chavez lived, he may have expanded that edict, given his concerns.
So really, the death of Chavez will likely mean less restrictions not only with Columbia but overall.
However, should his successor prove to continue the Chavez programs and develop into more of a charismatic leader himself, there still could be future implications to air traffic. Much remains to be seen in this respect.
What if Nicolas Maduro loses the election?
If acting President Nicolas Maduro loses the election, given that the Venezuelan Military is aligning itself with him, the nation could face civil war. This will not be good for business. Indeed, traditionally when very charismatic leaders either die or are toppled, a period of unrest often ensues. If this occurs, the nation may become a place few will want to travel on business.
Of course, another likely outcome of such a situation is that the United States will no longer receive loans from Venezuela and this will place a further strain on our already difficult to cover budget shortfalls. As reported earlier in this blog, the FAA and TSA are already cutting back in anticipation of the March 28, sequester cut deadline. If that goes into effect, thousands of air traffic and airport security personnel will be laid off nationwide. Add a civil war in Venezuela, one of our largest creditor nations, and the United States may well have to lay off even more.
In short order, the death of Hugo Chavez will hopefully just mean business-as-usual; however, regular business travelers to Venezuela will want to watch this situation closely, for it holds the potential to change rapidly.