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After a prolonged battle with cancer, the polarizing socialist leader Hugo Chavez has died. Chavez leaves behind a country in deep economic and political crisis. What's next for the people of Venezuela?

Nicolas maduro hugo chavez successor venezuela
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez named Vice President Nicolas Maduro as his successor, in the instance that Chavez's failing health forces him out of office. (PEDRO REY/AFP/Getty Images)
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Nicolas Maduro: Who is Hugo Chavez's chosen successor?

Who is Nicolas Maduro, the man chosen as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's successor?

Ailing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tapped Vice President Nicolas Maduro as his successor on Saturday night, calling on Venezuelans to elect Maduro to take over duties if Chavez himself is unable to stay in office due to his battle with cancer.

The man the Associated Press described as "intensely loyal" has served as Venezuela's foreign minister since 2006 and was chosen for the vice presidential post three days after Chavez won re-election on Oct. 7 of this year.

Chavez himself said, "He is a complete revolutionary, a man of great experience despite his youth, with great dedication and capacity for work," according to the BBC.

The 50-year-old Maduro is a former bus driver and trade unionist with Caracas public transport, according to Reuters. While serving as foreign minister, he was faithful to Chavez's views, sticking to a hard left-wing stance.

However, the BBC also noted that Maduro has been described as a pragmatist. Reuters said Maduro has a reputation among foreign diplomats for being easygoing and affable. One European envoy said, "He's the smoothest and least prickly of all the top Chavistas to deal with."

More on GlobalPost: Nicolas Maduro named as Chavez' successor as the Venezuelan leader faces cancer surgery

According to the BBC, Chavez and Maduro's friendship dates back to when Chavez served time in prison for an attempted coup in 1992. Often seen with the president and his daughters, Maduro is thought to be one of the select few privy to the details of Chavez's diagnosis.

The AP reported that Maduro entered politics as a teenager, joining the Socialist League. He went to Cuba for training in union organizing and went on to become an organizer for the Caracas Metro system.

Married to Cilia Flores, a lawyer who became the first woman to serve as National Assembly president, Maduro is one half of a political "power couple," Reuters noted.

Chavez said of Maduro, "Look where he is going, Nicolas the bus driver... How they mocked him, the bourgeoisie," according to the BBC.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/venezuela/121210/nicolas-maduro-who-hugo-chavezs-chosen-successor