Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Dead at 58
The charismatic president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, has died after a lengthy battle with cancer.
CARACAS, VENEZUELA — Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro has made an official announcement that Hugo Chavez, the fiery anti-American socialist president of Venezuela, passed away this afternoon at 4:25 p.m. He had been battling cancer since June 2011, when he first announced that he would be traveling to Cuba to receive treatment.
His death has extremely serious repercussions for the future of Venezuelan leadership, as his successor has never been able to match the charisma and popularity of his predecessor.
Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999, after a previously failed coup attempt in 1992 against the hugely unpopular government of the time, and began what he dubbed the “Bolivarian Revolution” in Venezuela. During his time as president, he instituted a number of controversial reforms similar to those of Cuba in the 1960s, while going to great lengths to provide social services to the poorest sectors of the population. Although the overall effects on the national economy were far from positive, that reality is reflected by the thousands of Venezuelans who had access to doctors, education, and basic services for the very first time.
A coup against Chávez himself occurred in April 2002, which led to a popular uprising against the plotters on the streets of Caracas that brought him back to the presidential palace.
Chavez was widely regarded as the figurehead of the “Pink Tide”, the name given to a wave of leftist Latin American leaders to come to power in the first few years of the 21st century. While it seemed that this would usher in a new era of regional solidarity with Chávez at the head, his over-the-top rhetorical attacks against the United States and hardline socialist policies eventually alienated him from more center-left governments as the years went on. He spent much of his time courting some of the most staunchly anti-U.S. leaders, such as Fidel Castro, Evo Morales, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and even more time was spent on his daily morning broadcast “Alo Presidente”, during which he pulled no punches in blasting what he viewed as Washington’s imperialist foreign policy.
Regardless of the legacy that he leaves for Venezuela, Hugo Chávez will undoubtedly take his place as one of the most controversial and fascinating world leaders of our time.
See below for Nicolas Maduro’s emotional announcement of Chavez’s passing.