News / Americas

Venezuelan President Chavez Dead at 58

Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s Colorful, Controversial Leader, Diesi
X
March 05, 2013 10:51 PM
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has succumbed to cancer. He was 58. Chavez, who was first diagnosed with cancer in 2011, was a populist and autocratic leader at home and a shrill critic of the United States abroad. VOA’s Brian Padden has more in this report.

Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s Colorful, Controversial Leader, Dies

Venezuelan officials say President Hugo Chavez has died after a long struggle with cancer.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced the death on national television Tuesday. He urged the Venezuelan people to show strength and courage, and to be united and fulfill the expectations of "this great leader."  

Foreign Minister Elias Jaua has declared seven days of national mourning. He says says Chavez will lie in state at a military academy before a funeral Friday.

The 58-year-old Chavez had been treated in Cuba for cancer before returning to Caracas last month. Officials say he came down with a severe infection after strong chemotherapy in a Caracas military hospital.

Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro (L) speaks during a meeting with political and military leader at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, March 5, 2013 in this photo provided by Miraflores Palace.Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro (L) speaks during a meeting with political and military leader at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, March 5, 2013 in this photo provided by Miraflores Palace.
x
Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro (L) speaks during a meeting with political and military leader at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, March 5, 2013 in this photo provided by Miraflores Palace.
Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro (L) speaks during a meeting with political and military leader at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, March 5, 2013 in this photo provided by Miraflores Palace.
Chavez had cancer in his pelvis. He has not been seen in public since December and missed his inauguration for another term in January.

The secretary general of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, sent his condolences to the Venezuelan people, calling this a time of great sorrow. The OAS will hold a special meeting in memory of President Chavez.

Vice President Maduro Tuesday accused Venezuela's enemies of attacking the president with cancer. He did not say how that could have been done.

Also Tuesday, Venezuela expelled two U.S. diplomats, accusing them of meeting with military officers and plotting to destabilize the government.

The two diplomats are air attaches - U.S. Air Force officers who are stationed in the embassy.

A statement from the U.S. State Department rejected the Venezuelan claim about the diplomats and calls accusations that the United States was involved in causing Mr. Chavez's cancer absurd. 

Supporters of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez weep as she learn that Chavez has died through an announcement by the vice president in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2013.Supporters of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez weep as she learn that Chavez has died through an announcement by the vice president in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2013.
x
Supporters of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez weep as she learn that Chavez has died through an announcement by the vice president in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2013.
Supporters of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez weep as she learn that Chavez has died through an announcement by the vice president in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2013.
President Barack Obama said in a statement after the death was announced that the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and is committed to polices that promote democracy, and human rights.

Path to Politics

Chavez once dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player, but instead he entered the world of politics. During his lifetime, the controversial president courted figures such as Fidel Castro of Cuba, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and then-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhadi.

As an army paratrooper in 1992, Chavez led an unsuccessful coup against then-president Carlos Andres Perez, and he spent time in jail for plotting the failed coup. Chavez's political fortunes later changed.  He was elected president of oil-rich Venezuela in 1998, running on a populist platform and pledging to wipe out poverty and corruption.

  • Hugo Chavez with his daughters, Maria Gabriela, left, and Rosa Virginia at an unknown location in Havana, Cuba, February 14, 2013.
  • Hugo Chavez speaks at the Plaza Caracas, Feburary 4, 1998 during celebrations for the anniverary of the 1992 Venezuelan coup.
  • Chavez waves to the crowd after announcing his candidacy for the presidency in downtown Caracas Plaza, Venezuela, July 29, 1997.
  • President Barack Obama shakes hands with Chavez before the opening session of the 5th Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, April 17, 2009. 
  • Cuba's Fidel Castro, right, and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez embrace in La Orchila island, Venezuela, December 22, 2003.
  • This picture released by Cuba's state newspaper Granma shows Cuba's President Raul Castro meeting Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez at the Jose Marti International airport in Havana, Cuba, December 10, 2012.
  • Hugo Chavez holds a microphone under pouring rain during his closing campaign rally in Caracas, October 4, 2012.
  • Chavez attends a special session at the National Assembly commemorating the country's Independence Day, in Caracas, Venezuela, July 5, 2012.
  • Hugo Chavez, center, Aristobulo Izturi, left, and Pablo Medina appear at a Caracas rally Friday, April 24, 1998.
  • Chavez runs the bases after hiting a double during an exhibition softball game in Caracas, February 11, 2010.
  • Supporters of Chavez pray for the ailing president at the military hospital's chapel in Caracas, March 5, 2013.
  • A woman carries an image of Chavez before a mass in support of him in Havana, Cuba, December 13, 2012.
  • Chavez, left, speaks with an electoral worker at a polling station before casting his ballot for the presidential election in Caracas, October 7, 2012.
  • Chavez greets supporters during his caravan from Miraflores presidential palace to the airport in Caracas, February 24, 2012.
  • Chavez shares a moment with his daughter Rosa as he attends a concert in his honor at the Teresa Carreno theater in Caracas, February 23, 2012.

He considered himself a revolutionary and said he was inspired by his political mentor, Fidel Castro, who held power for close to 50 years in Cuba. Critics often accused Chavez of steering Venezuela toward a Cuban-style one-party dictatorship. 

Political analyst Luis Vicente Leon says Venezuela became undemocratic under the president's growing authoritarian rule.

"We rediscovered the needs of the poor classes, we rediscovered that it was necessary to tend to their problems," he said.  "What are the negatives?  Well, I think the most important of all is that Venezuela's democracy nowadays is quite a poor democracy."

Critic of the U.S.

Chavez was a fierce critic of the United States, which he often referred to as "the empire," and he accused the U.S. of supporting coup attempts against him - charges Washington denied. Back in 2006, he famously referred to then-U.S. president George W. Bush as "the devil" during a speech before the United Nations General Assembly.  

"Yesterday the devil was here at this very spot. This podium where it is now my turn to speak still smells of sulfur," Chavez said.

Hugo Chavez

  • 58 years old
  • Gained national attention in a failed 1992 coup
  • President since 1999
  • Ousted by a coup for two days in 2002
  • Started cancer treatment in 2011
  • Vocal critic of the U.S. and supporter of Cuba, Iran, Syria
As president, Chavez nationalized major companies across a range of industries -- from oil, steel and cement, to electricity and telecommunications. He also directed funds from the country's oil wealth to social programs for the needy.  Additionally, he used electoral victories to extend the presidential term to six years and remove term limits.

Michael Shifter, an analyst with the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, says the president's leftist policies hurt long-term economic development and contributed to rising crime.  But he says Chavez will be remembered as a champion of the people who used his country's vast oil wealth to provide the poor with free housing and health care.

"There is nobody around who has the charisma and the ability to connect to Venezuelans the way Chavez did. Chavez as a figure and the memory of Chavez won't disappear.  That will help sustain the movement," Shifter said.

Chavez also earned the ire of critics by cracking down on the opposition media.  The human rights body of the Organization of American States voiced concern about the use of the punitive power of the state to silence opponents in Venezuela.

In 2008, Venezuela and Ecuador broke diplomatic relations with Bogota after Colombian troops raided a Colombian FARC rebel camp in Ecuador, killing a rebel commander and several other people.  

Ties between Venezuela and Colombia soured over accusations that Venezuela harbors FARC rebels.  Venezuela denied financing and supporting the FARC.  Chavez, however, helped win the release of some Colombians held hostage by the FARC.

Health Problems

In June 2011, President Chavez was diagnosed with cancer and subsequently underwent surgeries in Cuba to remove tumors from his pelvic area.  He then underwent chemotherapy both in Cuba and Venezuela for the disease.  The president did not disclose what kind of cancer was being treated, but insisted he would be ready to run for re-election in October 2012.   Chavez won a fourth term, but underwent a fourth cancer operation in Cuba in December.  He was not seen in public after that, although a photograph of him with two daughters was released in the weeks prior to his death.

Chavez was to have been sworn in this past January, but the event did not occur because he was not well enough for the occasion.

You May Like

Video Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
March 07, 2013 12:36 AM
He is reported that he provided free education and free hospital access to Venezueran people during his term using rich oil money. Did he control the contents of school education? Has democracy not yet grown in Venezuera? Would next leaders be also expected to contradict to US?


by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
March 06, 2013 6:08 PM
It is very unfortunate, that the new interim gvmt has spread anti- US conspiracies already. It would have been a good opportunity for mending relations between the US and Venezuela; it could even had US reps attending the funeral, but given the emotions stirred up, by the conspiracy/blood libel against the US, it is best US people keep away, or very low profile, for security reasons....emotional crowds can be very explosive! never mind that the funeral speaches, which will probably also be very anti US. Sad sit for US/Ven relations.


by: Cranksy from: USA
March 06, 2013 1:22 PM
For what it is worth, the book the late President Chavez gave to President Obama was a copy of "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent" by Eduardo Galeano.


by: Bearman from: U.S.A.
March 06, 2013 7:37 AM
Don't cry for me Venezuela... H Chavez


by: David from: US
March 06, 2013 4:33 AM
Chavez was a remarkable leader, who cared about the poor and oppressed. He consistently stood up against oil tycoons in the US and elsewhere who were constantly trying overthrow the Venezuelan regime and steal their oil - especially during the Bush administration.

I wish our US Representatives had half the courage, and stood up for the American people against the parasitic wall-street-bankers, like Chavez did for his people. Chavez will be missed by Venezuelans and decent people worldwide.


by: fOOEy from: USA
March 05, 2013 6:22 PM
Goodbye to you, and Goodbye to your successor. Goodbye!


by: NVO from: USA
March 05, 2013 6:15 PM
Now its the FAKE TEARS for the Tyrant. Start crying for your next so-called leader, whom will doom you also. LOL. FAKE TEARS, FAKE TEARS, FAKE TEARS.


by: Thomas from: Rockford
March 05, 2013 5:46 PM
Treated his own people like dirt. There is no more damning condemnation for a leader. http://www.hallofbaddudes.com/2013/03/hugo-chavez-friend-of-ozzie-guillen-dead.html

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Attack on Colombian Police Kills 7

Defense ministry vows to 'maintain and intensify' operations against armed groups, drug traffickers following the attack
More

Chronically Hungry Numbers Decline

Three U.N. agencies have released the State of Food Security in the World report
More

UN: Enforced Disappearances Continue Unabated Globally

UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances says more than 43,000 cases from 88 countries still remain to be clarified
More

Hurricane Odile Weakens, Still a Threat to Mexico

Odile could drench Baja California with as much as 46 centimeters of rain by Friday
More

Powerful Hurricane Threatens Mexico's Baja California

US forecasters have downgraded Odile to strong Category 3 storm, with top sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour
More

Hard-hitting Films Tackle Homelessness at Toronto Festival

'Time Out of Mind,' 'Shelter,' and 'Heaven Knows What' all focus on characters struggling with homelessness, addiction on the streets of New York
More