In 2007 Chavez told the Associated Press, “I’m still a subversive. I think the entire world has to be subverted.”
Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced the death of President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday in a nationally televised broadcast. He said Chavez died at 4:25pm local time. He was 58 years old. His death comes two years after Chavez was first diagnosed with cancer. Chavez was born in 1954, in the Venezuelan town of Sabaneta. He was the son of schoolteachers, and was raised by his grandmother, “in a home with a dirt floor, mud walls and a roof made of palm fronds.” He joined the army when he was 17, where he “immersed himself” in the history of the 19th-century independence leader Simon Bolivar and the other heroes who had overthrown their Spanish rulers. Chavez considered himself to be a “subversive” and constantly battled for the socialist ideals he believed in. The Associated Press reports,
During more than 14 years in office, his leftist politics and grandiose style polarized Venezuelans. The barrel-chested leader electrified crowds with his booming voice, and won admiration among the poor with government social programs and a folksy, nationalistic style.
Chavez used his country’s oil wealth to launch social programs that included state-run food markets, new public housing, free health clinics and education programs. While poverty declined during his presidency amid a historic boom in oil earnings, critics said he failed to use the windfall of hundreds of billions of dollars to develop the country’s economy.
Before his struggle with cancer, the charismatic leader appeared on television almost daily, speaking for hours and breaking into song or philosophical discourse. He often wore the bright red of his United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or the fatigues and red beret of his army days — the same uniform he donned in 1992 while leading an ill-fated coup attempt that first landed him in jail and then launched his political career.
The rest of the world watched as the country with the world’s biggest proven oil reserves took a turn to the left under its unconventional leader, who considered himself above all else a revolutionary.
Chavez was diagnosed with cancer in June, 2011, and although “he never revealed the exact location of tumors that were removed from his pelvic region, or the exact type of cancer,” Chavez did admit that he had “recklessly neglected his health,” while president. He said he had “taken to staying up late and drinking as many as 40 cups of coffee a day.” Chavez underwent several rounds of chemotherapy, and returned to Cuba, after winning the presidential election again in 2012, for a fourth “cancer-related” surgery. After being gone for nearly 10 weeks, the Venezuelan government officially announced that he had returned and was being treated in Caracas at a military hospital. Chavez was never seen in public again.
Photo: AP/Ariana Cubillos