Hugo Chavez scored a resounding win in Venezuela's October 7 presidential election. His 11-point victory ensured that -- barring a sudden surrender to the cancer he has been battling for more than a year -- he will mark 20 years in power by the end of his term in 2019. He has threatened to rule until 2030.
Not everyone is happy about Chavez's electoral longevity, of course. Nearly half of Venezuelans want the 58-year-old to get the hell out of office. Now, however, even Chavez's close friend and fellow Latin American leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva says the socialist should start planning for retirement.
"There was an election in Venezuela, where two people ran, and I thought Chavez would be best for Venezuela," the former president of Brazil told Argentine paper La Nacion. "I also think that comrade Chavez should start preparing his succession."
Despite his serious (and highly secretive) battle with cancer, Chavez has done little to prepare the country for his eventual departure. Ministers are hired and fired at the president's whim, rarely lasting more than a year.
Critics cite the president's disorganization and impulse decision making as a sign that his movement is more personality-driven populism than a coherent socialist platform.
After his victory at the polls, Chavez announced that foreign minister Nicolas Maduro would now also serve as vice president. But that decision did little to ease worries about what will happen if Chavez dies in office. Maduro is a marxist and a former bus driver.
Unlike Chavez, Lula did not change his country's constitution to allow for indefinite re-election. Instead, he stepped down after two terms, making way for his hand-picked successor Dilma Rousseff.
Like Chavez, Lula has battled cancer recently. His treatment was successful, raising the possibility of his own eventual return to office.