Hugo Chavez Biography and Profile - Venezuela
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Hugo Chavez Biography

Bio Synopsis

Born in Sabaneta, Venezuela, on July 28, 1954, Hugo Chávez (Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías) attended the Venezuelan military academy and served as an army officer before participating in an effort to overthrow the government in 1992, for which he was sentenced to two years in prison. Continue reading Hugo Chavez Biography and Profile. Read more


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Hugo Chavez Early Life

Born in Sabaneta, Venezuela, on July 28, 1954, Hugo Chávez (Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías) attended the Venezuelan military academy and served as an army officer before participating in an effort to overthrow the government in 1992, for which he was sentenced to two years in prison. Chávez became president of Venezuela in 1999. Early into his presidency, he created a new constitution for the country, which included changing its name to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

He later focused his efforts on gaining control of the state-run oil company, which stirred controversy and led to protests, strained relations with the United States and other nations, and Chávez briefly being removed from power. His actions included selling oil to Cuba and resisting efforts to stop narcotic trafficking in Colombia. In 2006, Chávez helped create the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, a socialist free-trade organization. He died on March 5, 2013, at age 58, following a long battle with cancer.

Hugo Chavez Biography and Profile

Born Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías on July 28, 1954, in Sabaneta, Venezuela, Hugo Chávez was the son of schoolteachers. Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías attended the Venezuelan military academy and served as an army officer before participating in an effort to overthrow the government in 1992, for which he was sentenced to two years in prison.

Failed Coup Attempt

Before becoming known for his reform efforts and strong opinions as president of Venezuela (1999-2013), Chávez attended the Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences, where he graduated in 1975 with a degree in military arts and science. He went on to serve as an officer in an army paratrooper unit.

In 1992, Chávez, along with other disenchanted members of the military, attempted to overthrow the government of Carlos Andres Perez. The coup failed, and Chávez subsequently spent two years in prison before being pardoned. He then started the Movement of the Fifth Republic, a revolutionary political party. Chávez ran for president in 1998, campaigning against government corruption and promising economic reforms.

Venezuelan President

After taking office in 1999, Chávez set out to change the Venezuelan constitution, amending the powers of congress and the judicial system. As a part of the new constitution, the name of the country was changed to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

As president, Chávez encountered challenges both at home and abroad. His efforts to tighten his hold on the state-run oil company in 2002 stirred up controversy and led to numerous protests, and he found himself removed from power briefly in April 2002 by military leaders. The protests continued after his return to power, leading to a referendum on whether Chávez should remain president. The referendum vote was held in August 2004, and a majority of voters decided to let Chávez complete his term in office.

Hostility Towards the U.S.

Chávez was known for being outspoken and dogmatic throughout his presidency, refusing to hold back any of his opinions or criticisms. He insulted oil executives, church officials and other world leaders, and was particularly hostile with the United States government, which, he believed, was responsible for the failed 2002 coup against him. Chávez also objected to the war in Iraq, stating his belief that the United States had abused its powers by initiating the military effort. He also called President George W. Bush an evil imperialist.

Relations between the United States and Venezuela have been strained for some time. After taking office, Chávez sold oil to Cuba—a longtime adversary of the United States—and resisted U.S. plans to stop narcotics trafficking in nearby Colombia. He also helped guerrilla forces in neighboring countries. Additionally, during his presidency, Chávez threatened to stop supplying oil to the United States if there was another attempt to remove him from power. He did, however, donate heating oil to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, which destroyed numerous fuel-processing facilities.

International Collaboration

Regardless of the state of Venezuela’s relationship with the United States, while in office, Chávez leveraged his country’s oil resources to form connections with other nations, including China and Angola. In 2006, he helped create the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, a socialist free-trade organization joined by Fidel Castro, president of Cuba, and Evo Morales, president of Bolivia. Chávez was also an active member of the Non-Aligned Movement, a group of more than 100 countries, including Cuba, Iran and several African nations.

Declining Health and Death

Chávez discovered that he had cancer in June 2011, following a surgery to remove a pelvic abscess, and from 2011 to early 2012, he underwent three surgeries to remove cancerous tumors.

Prior to his third surgery, in February 2012, Chávez acknowledged the severity of the operation as well as the possibility of not being able to continue his service as president, and subsequently named Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro as his successor. Due to his declinging health, Chávez was prevented from being inaugurated for a fourth term in January 2013.

Following his years-long battle with cancer, Hugo Chávez died on March 5, 2013, at age 58, in Venezuela. He was survived by his wife, Maria Isabel Rodriguez, and five children: Rosines, María Gabriela, Rosa Virginia and Hugo Rafael. Two days after Chavez’s death, Vice President Maduro announced that Chavez’s body would be preserved and permanently displayed inside a glass tomb now under construction in a Caracas museum. The site, located not far from the palace where Chavez ruled for more than a decade, has been called el Museo Histórico Militar de Caracas.

Hugo Chavez Quick Facts

  • Birth date: July 28, 1954
  • Death date: March 5, 2013
  • Birth place: Sabaneta, Barinas, Venezuela
  • Birth name: Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias
  • Father: Hugo Chavez, school teacher
  • Mother: Elena (Frias) Chavez, school teacher
  • Marriages: Marisabel Rodríguez de Chavez (December 1997- 2004, divorced); Nancy Colmenares de Chavez (divorced mid-1990s)
  • Children: with Marisabel Chavez: Rosa Inés; with Nancy Chavez: Rosa Virginia, María Gabriela, Hugo Rafael, Raúl Alfonzo
  • Education: Military Academy of Venezuela in Caracas, 1975
  • Religion: Roman Catholic

Other Facts:

  • Was closely aligned with Fidel Castro of Cuba.

Chavez Timeline:

  • 1975 – Joins Venezuela’s Army.
  • 1990 – Lieutenant Colonel in the Venezuelan Army.
  • February 4, 1992-March 26, 1994 – Is imprisoned for a coup attempt against President Carlos Andres Perez.
  • 1994 – Forms the Fifth Republic Movement, a political opposition group.
  • December 6, 1998 – Is elected the youngest president in Venezuela’s history.
  • February 2, 1999 – Is sworn in as president of Venezuela.
  • 1999 – Chavez’s government creates a new constitution. It passes in a vote on December 15, 1999.
  • July 30, 2000 – Wins re-election to the presidency for a six-year term, under the new constitution.
  • April 8, 2002 (week of) – Demonstrations break out across Venezuela due to an economic crisis. Sixteen demonstrators are killed as well as one police officer on April 11 in Caracas.
  • April 12, 2002 – Chavez says he will “abandon his duties” and Pedro Carmona Estanga becomes President. On the following day, demonstrations force Carmona to resign and Diosdado Cabello, Chavez’s vice president, takes over for one day.
  • April 14, 2002 – Chavez is reinstated as president.
  • August 20, 2003 – Opposition groups present election officials with approximately 2.7-3.2 million signatures calling for the removal/recall of Chavez from the presidency.
  • June 3, 2004 – The National Electoral Council of Venezuela announces that Chavez’s opponents have collected enough valid signatures to force a recall vote.
  • August 15, 2004 – A vote to potentially recall Chavez fails and he remains president. 59% of voters vote to keep him in office.
  • August 22, 2005 – Conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson calls for the United States to assassinate Chavez, calling him “a terrific danger” bent on exporting Communism and Islamic extremism across the Americas. “If he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it,” Robertson tells viewers on his “The 700 Club” show. “It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.”
  • September 15, 2005 – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez delivers a fiery speech to the UN General Assembly, criticizing the United Nations as an imperialist institution and suggesting the world body move its headquarters out of the United States.
  • September 20, 2006 – In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Chavez says in reference to US President George W. Bush, “The devil came here yesterday, and it smells of sulfur still today.”
  • December 3, 2006 – Claims victory in Venezuela’s presidential election against Manuel Rosales after Rosales concedes.
  • January 31, 2007 – The Venezuelan National Assembly approves a law that gives Chavez the authority to rule by decree. He has been granted the special powers for 18 months.
  • April 30, 2007 – Chavez announces that Venezuela will formally pull out of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
  • May 1, 2007 – Chavez’s government takes control of Venezuela’s last remaining privately run oil fields.
  • May 28, 2007 – Chavez creates a furor when he refuses to renew the broadcast license of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV), Venezuela’s oldest television network. His decision to shut it down draws claims of censorship and days of protests in Caracas and other cities. RCTV returns in mid-July.
  • January 10, 2008 – Chavez assists in brokering the release of two Colombian hostages, Consuelo Gonzalez and Clara Rojas, who had been held for five years by FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
  • March 14, 2008 – In a public statement, Chavez dares the United States to put Venezuela on a list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
  • February 15, 2009 – A referendum passes that will allow Chavez to run for a third six-year term in 2012.
  • September 7, 2009 – Oliver Stone’s film “South of the Border,” featuring Chavez, premieres at the Venice Film Festival. Chavez attends the premiere.
  • December 17, 2010 – Venezuelan Television reports that Venezuela’s National Assembly has granted President Hugo Chavez the power to pass laws by decree for the next 18 months.
  • May 9, 2011 – Chavez calls in to Venezuelan state television and says that he’s canceling a scheduled trip to Brazil because of debilitating pain in his knee requiring doctor-ordered bed rest.
  • June 5-7, 2011 – Chavez visits Brazil and Ecuador and heads to Cuba, scheduled as the third leg of an international trip.
  • June 10, 2011 – Undergoes surgery for a pelvic abscess in Cuba. In a speech on June 30, 2011 Chavez says that a cancerous tumor was removed during this surgery.
  • June 23, 2011- Venezuelan government officials go on the offensive as media reports suggest Chavez could have cancer. In a Twitter post, Venezuelan Vice Foreign Minister Temir Porras said Chavez’s enemies should “stop dreaming,” adding that “the only thing that has metastasized is the cancer of The Miami Herald and the rest of the right-wing media.”
  • June 29, 2011 – Cuba TV releases video of Chavez and Fidel Castro. The video is aimed at curtailing rumors regarding Chavez’s health.
  • June 30, 2011 – In a speech broadcast on Venezuelan state television from Havana, Chavez reveals that doctors have removed a cancerous tumor from his body. He does not specify what type of cancer he is battling.
  • July 4, 2011 – Chavez returns to Venezuela after more than three weeks of treatment in Cuba.
  • July 5, 2011 – Chavez does not attend Venezuela’s bicentennial parade, but addresses the crowd from inside the presidential palace.
  • July 13, 2011 – Announces he is in his second phase of cancer treatment and may undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
  • July 16, 2011 – Chavez returns to Cuba for further cancer treatment. Before leaving Venezuela, he delegates some of his power to Vice President Elias Jaua and Finance Minister Jorge Giordani.
  • July 23, 2011 – Arrives back in Venezuela after traveling to Cuba to receive chemotherapy treatment. Two days later, Chavez tells a newspaper that he is still planning to run for president in 2012.
  • July 24, 2011 – Successfully undergoes first round of chemotherapy in Cuba.
  • August 7-14, 2011 – Returns to Cuba for second round of chemotherapy.
  • September 18-22, 2011 – Chavez travels to Cuba for another round of chemotherapy.
  • September 25, 2011 – An audio recording of Chavez airs on Venezuelan state-run television, assuring listeners he is recovering successfully from his last round of chemotherapy.
  • October 20, 2011 – After five days of medical tests in Cuba, Chavez says he’s beaten cancer. “There are no malignant cells in this body. They don’t exist,” he says.
  • February 21, 2012 – Chavez says that he will need to undergo surgery to remove a lesion, roughly two centimeters in diameter, from the same area where doctors removed a cancerous tumor from his body in June of 2011.
  • February 24-March 16, 2012 – In Cuba for cancer treatment.
  • March 25-March 29, 2012 – In Cuba for cancer treatment.
  • March 31-April 4, 2012 – In Cuba for cancer treatment.
  • April 7-11, 2012 – In Cuba for cancer treatment.
  • April 14, 2012 – Chavez is unable to attend the Summit of the Americas in Colombia due to illness.
  • April 26, 2012 – Returns to Venezuela from Cuba after another round of cancer treatments.
  • May 2, 2012 – Names ten Venezuelans to an influential commission called the Council of State. It is the highest circle of advisers to the president, but has never actually been formed. The timing of the appointments is significant, as speculation increases over who will succeed Chavez if he becomes too ill to govern, or if he dies.
  • May 1-11, 2012 – In Cuba for cancer treatment.
  • July 9, 2012 – Chavez declares that he is cancer-free.
  • October 7, 2012 – Wins re-election as president for a new six-year term.
  • November 28, 2012 – Arrives in Cuba for another round of medical treatment.
  • December 7, 2012 – Returns to Venezuela from Cuba after receiving hyperbaric oxygen treatment.
  • December 8, 2012 – In a televised announcement, Chavez reveals his cancer has returned and that he will return to Cuba in two days for more surgery. Vice President Nicolas Maduro is named by Chavez to succeed him should his health worsen.
  • December 11, 2012 – Chavez undergoes six hours of surgery in Havana, Cuba.
  • December 30, 2012 – According to Vice President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez is suffering from “new complications” and his health remains “delicate.”
  • January 3, 2013 – Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas says in a televised statement that Chavez is suffering from a “severe” lung infection and “respiratory insufficiency.”
  • January 9, 2013 – Venezuela’s Supreme Court rules that Hugo Chavez will remain president even though he is unable to attend his inauguration, scheduled for January 10.
  • February 18, 2013 – Chavez returns to Venezuela from Cuba. He announces his return via Twitter saying, “We come back to the country of Venezuela. Thank God! Thank you dear people! Here we continue the treatment.”
  • March 4, 2013 – Information Minister Ernesto Villegas announces on state-run TV that Chavez is battling a new and “severe” infection and that his condition remains “delicate.”
  • March 5, 2013 – Chavez dies at 58.
  • March 22, 2013 – Chavez is laid to rest in Cuartel de la Montaña military history museum in Caracas.
  • Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías Biography and Profile
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