AMMAN — The new presidential election in Venezuela is unlikely to change Hugo Chavez’s anti-neo liberal tradition, political science professor at Brooklyn College Gregory Wilpert said on Tuesday.

He made the remarks during a lecture, assessing the legacy of the late populist leader Hugo Chavez and the direction the Latin American country is heading, held at the University of Jordan.

As Venezuelans are heading for polls on April 14 to elect a new president, Wilpert spoke of the late charismatic leader’s social policies, notably halving poverty down to 6.4 per cent since he took office in 1999.

“The real problems facing Venezuela today are the economy’s dependency on oil, crime, political inefficiency and US interference,” Wilpert told the audience in a live session rife with polarised opinions.

Elected in 1999, Chavez introduced a series of reforms, known as the “Bolivarian Missions”, to address issues of health, education and housing among others, while improving the living standards of 29 million Venezuelans. Yet the country still has the highest crime rate in the continent, the professor noted.

Although interim Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and pro-US opposition leader of Mesa de la Unidad Democracia (MUD) Henrique Capriles have different positions on both domestic and foreign policies, they will have to deal with the same issues, according to the academic.

Chavez’s clear anti-neo liberal standpoint, which was translated into cold diplomatic relations with the US, however, might be at stake during these elections, Wilpert observed.

“Maduro will definitely surf on the wave of sympathy which followed Chavez’s death… and is more likely to win. The campaign has been very aggressive and this shows the panic from the opposition’s side,” Wilbert told The Jordan Times on the sidelines of the lecture.

“Capriles, being pro-American and of Jewish origin, might change the nature of relations with the Arab world if he doesn’t play with double standards as many other countries do,” Venezuela’s Ambassador to Jordan Fausto Fernandez Borge told The Jordan Times.

The non-alignment policy is one of the aspects that could bring Jordan and Venezuela closer, Executive Director and General Coordinator of the Arab-Latin American Forum Hassan Rahman told The Jordan Times.

Efforts to build on the commonalities between both countries led to the Arab-Latin American Forum, held in Abu Dhabi in December 2012 and which will culminate in the creation of the Council on Arab Relations with Latin America and the Caribbean, Rahman said.

“We have many things in common with Venezuela such as a large young population, a non-alignment policy and oil wealth, “ Rahman said, adding that when it comes to issues such as food security and poverty reduction, there is room for cooperation and exchange between the Arab world and Latin America.

“The potential for cooperation also applies to culture, I believe these are two regions with a strong cultural identity and wealth,” he concluded.