Hugo Chavez was one of the most powerful characters in Venezuelan politics, having served as President of the country for four terms until his death in 2013. As a follower of Chavism, a political ideology that combines Bolivarianism with Socialism, he attempted to put in place different socialistic concepts and programs in order to reduce social disparity and raise the living conditions of the poor and oppressed. Chavez, who was born into a working-class family and has faced financial challenges since childhood, disliked the ruling government’s neoliberalism and was extremely troubled by the terrible and wretched living conditions of the lower middle class and poor. He was perplexed by the country’s inequity and decided to bring about significant reforms in the country’s corrupt practices. He founded the Fifth Republic Movement in 1997 in order to run in the presidential elections. During his reign, the impoverished reaped the benefits of communist programs, and sectors such as health care, education, and housing received special attention. Continue reading to learn more about this politician’s life and career.
Childhood and Adolescence
Hugo de los Reyes Chavez and Elena Frias de Chavez were born into a working-class household. Both of his parents worked as teachers in schools. He was one of six siblings.
Young Chavez was raised by his grandmother due to the family’s financial difficulties. He came to Barinas to attend Daniel O’Leary High School after finishing his basic schooling at Julian Pino Elementary School.
Career of Hugo Chavez
He joined in Caracas’ Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences in 1971. He graduated from the academy four years later as a top graduate.
His first army position was as a communications officer with the Barinas counterinsurgency unit. He spent his free time reading the works of great theorists, which confirmed his belief that Venezuela needed a communist leadership.
Because of the army’s and civilian government’s corruption, he became increasingly critical, leading to the formation of a revolutionary organization within the army, the Venezuelan People’s Liberation Army (ELPV), in 1977.
In 1982, he established the Bolivarian Revolutionary Army 200, which later became the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 (MBR-200). The organization’s ideals were founded on Ezequiel Zamora’s, Simon Bolivar’s, and Simon Rodriguez’s beliefs and teachings.
He rose through the ranks of the army to captain and began teaching his Bolivarian beliefs to pupils. He was banished to the isolated barracks at Elorza in Apure State, however, because of his subversive teachings.
He was promoted to the rank of major in 1988 and assigned to General Rodriguez Ochoa’s staff as an assistant.
Meanwhile, President Carlos Andres Perez was elected owing to his reformist initiatives. His neoliberal policies, on the other hand, outraged many who demonstrated against him but were killed on his orders.
Disturbed by the large crowds, Chavez began planning a military coup, dubbed “Operation Zamora.” On February 4, 1992, a coup attempt was attempted but failed, and Chavez surrendered.
Chavez was allowed to appear on national television after surrendering on the condition that the remaining active coup elements halt hostilities. In his speech, Chavez wore his military uniform and evoked the name of national hero Simon Bolivar. His speech cemented his cult status and thrust him into the national spotlight. People looked forward to him as someone who could stand up to the administration and its corruption.
Following the nomination of Rafael Caldera as President in 1994, Chavez was released from prison and began promoting his Bolivarian Party in the hopes of sparking a social revolution.
He quickly became enraged by the Caldera-led government’s neoliberal economic policies, which had resulted in a sharp rise in poverty and a drop in Venezuelans’ per capita income. Furthermore, the rate of crime and homicide had risen dramatically.
He created his own political party, the Fifth Republic Movement, with him as the presidential candidate, to put an end to the corruption. He ran in the 1998 elections with the Copei party’s support and won with 56.2 percent of the vote.
On February 2, 1999, he was sworn in as President. He appointed a number of lefties to high-ranking positions in the government. Rather than the neoliberalism adopted by previous governments, he used capitalism in his early years.
He established Plan Bolivar 2000, a social welfare initiative aimed at redressing the wrongs committed during the Caracas tragedy. Army officers aided the destitute by providing free medical care and low-cost food. They also worked on road and hospital repairs.
He enacted a constitutional change that altered Congress’s and the judicial system’s authority. He went so far as to alter the country’s name to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
The new constitutional amendment gave elected government officials the right to fire corrupt officials who only served their personal interests. Despite the fact that the shift was widely praised, the opposition party characterized it as a continuation of the Chavez-led government’s dominance.
The new amendment enhanced safeguards for indigenous peoples and women, introduced educational, housing, healthcare, and food rights for people, and granted military powers to maintain public order and development.
After a successful first term, he was re-elected and received 59.67 percent of the vote in the presidential election. His second term began on January 10, 2001, and ended on January 10, 2007. During his second term, he focused on reducing illiteracy.
He expanded connections with the Castro-led Cuban government during his second administration by swapping barrels of oil for trained medical practitioners and educators. However, this resulted in a deterioration of relations with the US. He also nationalized a large chunk of the oil reserves rather than privatizing them.
He was elected President for the third time in 2007 after winning the presidential election.
With Fidel Castro and Evo Morales, he founded the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas. He was a driving force behind the establishment of the Pan-Regional Union of South American Nations, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, the Bank of the South, and the regional television network TeleSur throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
He won the presidential election for the fourth time in 2012, receiving 54 percent of the vote. Due to his ailing health, the inauguration, which was slated for January 10, was postponed. Nicolas Maduro, his vice president, ascended to the presidency afterwards.
Achievements & Awards
In 2005 and 2006, he was named to TIME magazine’s list of the 100 most important people.
In 2008, he was given the Blue Planet Award.
He got honorary doctorates from a number of universities throughout the world during his lifetime, including Kyung Hee University, Beijing University, University of Damascus, University of Tripoli, University of Brasilia, and others.
He has a number of streets, squares, airports, and organizations named after him.
Personal History and Legacy
Nancy Colmenares was his bridesmaid. Three children were born to the couple. They divorced after 18 years of marriage. Meanwhile, he had a nine-year romance with Herma Marksman during his first marriage.
He married Marisabel Rodriguez in 1997. They had a daughter together. The couple split up in 2000 and only divorced legally in 2004.
He was diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. He endured three procedures to remove the tumor with malignant cells before passing away on March 5, 2013, from a heart attack.
Hugo Chavez Net Worth
From 1999 until 2012, he was elected President of Venezuela for four consecutive terms, three of which he actively served. He was the driving force for the country’s renaming to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.