Hugo Chavez

(b. 1954)

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(b. 28 July 1954).

Venezuelan dictator 1998– 

Early career

Born in Sabaneta, he studied history and politics, and became an officer in the Venezuelan army. As a major of a parachuting regiment, he led an unsuccessful coup against the President in 1992. After two years in prison, Chávez was released under an amnesty. He became active in politics as a populist, spending much time in the slums of Caracas to appeal to the mass of Venezuela's poor.

In power

In 1998 he was elected President, and after taking office he proceeded to establish dictatorial powers. He instituted the creation of a constitutional assembly, whose Constitution was accepted in 1999 and greatly increased his position. To strengthen his position against an obstinate parliament which he was trying to abolish, he had himself confirmed in a further election in 2000. In April 2002, a coup attempt led by some army generals and conservative elites ousted Chávez briefly. He regained control over the army, and used the disunity among his opponents to re‐establish political control.

Chávez promoted an active foreign policy in opposition to US influence in Latin America. Helped by the country's vast oil and gas reserves, which he sold on to allies at preferential rates, and claiming his position as ideological heir to Fidel Castro, Chávez sought to make Venezuela the predominant regional power. He supported and created an alliance with other left-wing populist movements, notably in Nicaragua (Ortega), Brazil (Lula) and Bolivia under Evo Morales.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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