"Under the rule of populist President Hugo Chávez, first elected in 1998, Venezuela has undergone enormous political changes, with a new constitution and unicameral legislature, and even a new name for the country, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Human rights organizations have expressed concerns about the deterioration of democratic institutions and threats to freedom of expression under the Chávez government. President Chávez won reelection to another six-year term on October 7, 2012, by a margin of 11%, capturing about 55% of the vote compared to 44% for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. On December 11, 2012, however, Chávez faced a fourth difficult operation in Cuba for an undisclosed form of cancer that has raised questions about Venezuela's political future. Because of significant health complications, Vice President Nicolás Maduro announced on January 8, 2013, that President Chávez would not be sworn into office on January 10 as planned, but that he would be sworn into office at a later date, a decision supported by Venezuela's Supreme Court. Looking ahead, if President Chávez does not recover, the Constitution calls for a new election to be held within 30 days if the president dies or is incapacitated during the first four years of his term."
CRS Report for Congress, R40938