These relationships are controlled by a group of military elites within Venezuela, Farah tells U.S. News. He wonders whether the 50.8 percent of the vote Maduro won in the April 14 election gives him enough support to keep the country – and its shadow commerce – stable enough to continue its usual business.
"[Maduro] has been and will continue to be forced to take all the unpopular macroeconomic steps and corrections that are painful, but Chavez never took," Farah says. "There is going to be, I would guess, a great temptation to turn to [the elites] for money."
"Most criminalized elements of the Boliavarian structure will gain more power because he needs them," he says, adding "it won't be as chummy a relationship" as they enjoyed with the ever-charismatic Chavez.
U.S. officials might try to engage the new Venezuelan president first in the hopes of improving the strained ties between the two countries.
But Maduro has never been close with the senior military class in his home country, and will likely adopt a more confrontational approach to the United States to prove his credentials to these Bolivarian elites.
"Maybe if he were operating in different circumstances, he could be a pragmatist," Farah says. "I don't think he can be a pragmatist right now."