What a Maduro Presidency Means for Venezuela, Cuba and the U.S.

PHOTO: Nicolas Maduro was proclaimed winner of Venezuelas election by officials from the National Electoral Council (CNE) on Monday.

Earlier this week, election officials friendly to acting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro rejected a recount of Sunday's presidential vote, sealing the victory for Hugo Chávez's former protégé.

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles had argued for a nationwide recount, pointing to hundreds of reported voting irregularities on Election Day. Just under 300,000 votes separated him from Maduro, the vice president under Chávez. But the National Electoral Council (CNE), whose directors are mostly allies of Maduro's and Chávez' ruling socialist party, dismissed the request, arguing that a partial audit on Election Day had turned up no problems – and that Venezuela's electronic voting system does not make mistakes.

Capriles and many of his supporters still do not recognize Maduro as a legitimate president, and are still pushing for a recount. But Monday's decision by the CNE makes it very likely that Maduro will pick up permanently where Chávez left off after his death from cancer last month.

What will a Maduro presidency mean for Venezuela, Cuba and the United States? Here are the basics you need to know.

What it means for Venezuela

Maduro is taking over a country that is beset by high crime rates and serious food shortages.

Inflation is expected to exceed 30 percent this year, and Venezuela's socialist government recently had to devaluate the country's currency by 40 percent.

These problems are personal for most Venezuelans, and Maduro, who has been declared the election's winner by a razor-thin margin, will be under intense pressure to solve them.

The new president has two ways out of this mess, says Luis Vicente León, a pollster and political analyst. In one scenario, it's possible Maduro may make deals with private companies that can help alleviate problems like food shortages.

Such deals could include a loosening on price controls that currently discourage companies from producing goods, and more flexible foreign exchange controls, which would make it easier for companies to import goods into the country.

At the same time, Maduro would try to pander to his more ideological supporters by keeping up a radical discourse in which he talks about defending the country against imperialism, and defending people against Venezuela's "oligarchy."

The difference between Maduro's public discourse and how he deals with the private sector behind the scenes is what makes this the "bipolar" route, according to León.

León warns, however, that Maduro might also choose to embark on a more "radical" presidency.

In this scenario, Maduro would continue to use Venezuela's already diminished private sector as scapegoats for food shortages and other economic problems.

Chávez ruled this way during much of his presidency, blaming food shortages on "speculators," for example, and power outages on dark forces who were attempting to "sabotage" his socialist revolution.

Which route Maduro will decide to take could depend also on the future of Venezuela's socialist faction, in which radical and centrist leaders will continue to jockey for control of the party.

"With Chavez gone, it'll be interesting to see how Maduro deals with smaller parties in his coalition, that are frustrated by the dominance of the socialist party," said Gustavo Hernandez, a blogger for the Venezuelan politics site, Caracas Chronicles.

What it means for the United States

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