Hugo Chavez Frias was born in Sabaneta, Barinas State on July 28th, 1954. He has a mulatto background which gives him a common link to the 67% majority of Venezuelans. After he finished high school, he would have to travel to Caracas to continue his education. Chavez attended Venezuela’s Military Academy, where he graduated with a degree in Military Sciences and Arts on July 5, 1975. Having both parents as teachers its easy to see why he is an intellectual person, and why they weren't wealthy. Apparently his family also sold bananas and sowed corn for income. Chavez’ love for baseball is also easy to see. When he was a kid he played baseball like all children in Venezuela, and apparently he was a good pitcher. It was the desire to become a major league pitcher that initially led him into the military. After gaining his degree and his hopes of being a major leaguer gone, he continued on with his military career. During that time, he had various assignments, an armored unit, anti-guerilla duty along the Colombian border, and then as a military ethics instructor. Soon after that he began sowing the seeds for a coup in 1992.
As a teenager, Chávez was heavily influenced by José Esteban Ruiz Guevara, a local historian, who introduced him to the teachings of Bolívar and Karl Marx, the German philosopher who was one of the fathers of communism, both of which had a profound impact on Chávez’s political philosophy. The presence of the National Liberation Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional; FALN), the communist guerrilla insurgency that began fighting the Venezuelan government in the 1960s, also greatly affected Chávez. The FALN was supported by Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who would later become Chávez’s political muse.
In 1971 Chávez entered the Venezuelan Military Academy in Caracas, the national capital, not because he wanted to be a soldier but because he dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player, and the academy had good baseball coaches. Chávez planned to enroll there, excel at baseball, and then drop out. But while he was a skilled left-handed pitcher, he was not good enough to play professionally, so he continued his studies. He was a poor and unruly student, however, and ultimately graduated near the bottom of his class in 1975.
Chavez first tried to become president in 1992 by masterminding a military coup d'etat. But he blew it. The coup failed...
In 1992 that group, the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement, led a failed coup that ended with 18 people killed and Chavez imprisoned.
Chavez spent two years in prison before receiving a pardon. After leaving prison, he rebranded his movement into a populist party called the Movement of the Fifth Republic and replaced his military uniform with business attire, or oftentimes a red shirt or red track suit.
Venezuela has one of the longest democratic traditions in Latin America, but by the early 1990s many of the country's working and middle class people were disenchanted with the country's two primary political parties, both of which suffered from endemic corruption.
Mr Chavez has also frequently clashed with church leaders, whom he accuses of neglecting the poor, siding with the opposition, and defending the rich.
"They do not walk in... the path of Christ," said Mr Chavez at one stage.
Relations with Washington reached a new low when he accused the Bush administration of "fighting terror with terror" during the war in Afghanistan after 11 September 2001.
Mr Chavez accused the US of being behind a short-lived coup that saw him removed from office for a couple of days in 2002.
He survived this episode and emerged strengthened two years later in a referendum on his leadership. He then went on to victory in the 2006 presidential election.
Mr Chavez's government has implemented a number of "missions" or social programmes, including education and health services for all. But poverty and unemployment are still widespread, despite the country's oil wealth.
His outrageous and confrontational rhetoric, which increases during times of internal instability, has consistently worked to unite his followers in support of his leadership; he portrays himself as a modern day Simon Bolivar. It is this unquestioning support by Venezuela’s lower class that has enabled him to survive the slow destruction of Venezuela’s economy, internal discord, and ultimately a coup attempt in 2002.
His internationally recognized victory in the August 2004 referendum has surely emboldened him. For this consummate narcissist, this victory would have been expected to have swollen his already swollen ego. The precipitous announcement on October 11, 2004, that royalties paid by foreign oil companies would be increased from 1 to 16.6 percent, represented “the second and true phase of the nationalization of the country’s oil” and that “we are no longer going to give our oil away,” reflects the defiant populist bravura of Chavez. As his hold on power becomes more absolute, so does his vision of himself as the savior of Venezuela. Hugo Chavez is likely to do whatever it takes to retain his hold on power in order to secure his place in history.
Chávez started his military career as a second lieutenant in the army. His first assignment was to capture the remaining leftist guerrillas. But as he pursued the insurgents, Chávez began to empathize with them, seeing them as peasants fighting for a better life. By 1977 Chávez was ready to leave the army in disgust when he discovered that his brother Adán was secretly working with the insurgents. Chávez arranged to meet Douglas Bravo—head of the Venezuelan Revolution Party (Partido de la Revolución Venezolana; PRV), an underground movement, and a former leader of the FALN. “He inspired me and I realized I wouldn’t be leaving the army,” Chávez later said of Bravo. In 1982 Chávez and some fellow military officers secretly formed the Bolivarian Movement 200 to spread the insurgents’ revolutionary ideology within the military. Their goal was to take power in a civilian-military coup d’état.
Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's fiery and controversial socialist president who came to power on wave of popular sentiment and befriended some of the world's most notorious dictators, has died at the age of 58, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro said today.
Chavez had been fighting cancer, recently seeking treatment at a clinic in Cuba.
Chavez launched an ambitious plan to remake Venezuela, a major oil producer, into a socialist state in the so-called Bolivarian Revolution, which took its name from Chavez's idol, Simon Bolivar, who won independence for many South American countries in the early 1800s.
Chavez redirected much of the country's vast oil wealth, which increased dramatically during his tenure, to massive social programs for the country's poor. He expanded the portfolio of the state-owned oil monopoly to include funding for social "missions" worth millions of dollars. That helped pay for programs that seek to eradicate illiteracy, provide affordable food staples and grant access to higher education, among other things.
But Chavez also leaves a legacy of repression against politicians and private media who opposed him.
He concentrated power in the executive branch, turning formerly independent institutions -- such as the judiciary, the electoral authorities and the military -- into partisan loyalists.
Venezuela Under Chavez
For 13 years, Venezuela has marched to the beat of Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution. While claiming to advance "socialism of the 21st century," the combative Chavez has polarized and wrecked his nation's economic, institutional, and political foundations. He has successfully gutted the customary checks and balances of a healthy democracy to render the Venezuelan political system dependent upon his leadership...
To his credit, Chávez was devoted to trying to change the lives of the poor, who were his greatest and most fervent constituents. He began by hammering through a new constitution and renaming the country. Simon Bolívar, who had fought to unite Latin America under his rule, was Chávez’s hero, and so he changed the country’s name to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and thereafter spent a great deal of time and resources attempting to forge what he called his “Boliviarian Revolution.” It was not, initially, to be a socialist or even necessarily anti-American endeavor, but over the following years, Chávez’s rule, and his adopted international role, became both, at least in intention.
In May 2012, Mr Chavez said he had recovered from an unspecified cancer, after undergoing surgery and chemotherapy in 2011 and a further operation in February 2012.
However, in December 2012, he announced he needed further cancer surgery in Cuba, and named his Vice-President, Nicolas Maduro, as his preferred successor should the need arise.
Since then he has struggled to recover and remained out of public view, finally returning to Venezuela in February.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the charismatic leftist who dominated his country with sweeping political change and flamboyant speeches, died Tuesday at age 58, after a long battle with cancer that was shrouded in mystery and prevented him from being inaugurated for a fourth term.