Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died from complications related to cancer. He was 58.
The Latin American leader underwent four surgeries since he was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011.
His last cancer surgery in Havana, Cuba, on Dec. 11, was followed by several complications including a severe respiratory infection and bleeding. His condition was a source of speculation—there was little information available, and the little information that came to light came from government sources.
On Feb. 18, Chavez had quietly returned to Venezuela from Cuba, but the public hadn’t seen him in months.
He had four children. The president was married to Venezuelan journalist Marisabel Rodriguez from 1997 to 2004. They had a daughter, Rosines Chavez. He had three children with his first wife Nancy Colmenares.
Hugo Chavez: Venezuela’s most controversial leader
Hugo Chavez, a member of the Fifth Republic Movement political party, was first elected as president of Venezuela in 1998 in a landslide election, where he won over 56 percent of the vote. He had remained in power for 14 years, winning three elections.
Chavez won his last six-year term as president in October 2012 and was inaugurated on Jan. 10, 2013, but he couldn’t attend the inauguration because he was in a delicate condition after his surgery in Cuba.
Venezuela’s Constitution states that if the current president dies or is incapacitated in the first four years of their term, a new election must be held within 30 days.
Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias was born on July 28, 1954, in Sabaneta, in the province of Barinas, Venezuela. He was raised in a humble household and like many young Venezuelan men joined the military at 17-years-old for opportunities. He graduated at the top of his class from the Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences in Caracas.
He was successful in his military career, reaching the rank of army lieutenant colonel and later president. Chavez became known for helping Venezuela’s poor through housing and state-run grocery stores, among other programs.
In 1992, as Venezuela faced austerity measures known as El Caracazo, Chavez initiated a military coup to overthrow President Carlos Andres Perez’s government. However, the coup failed and Chavez was imprisoned for two years. Two years later he was pardoned by President Rafael Caldera.
Chavez’s bold move propelled him into politics where he co-founded the populist movement called the “Bolivarian Revolution” in Venezuela, which nationalized some industries including Venezuela’s prized oil and instituted programs for the poor.
He named the Bolivarian Revolution after Simon Bolivar, the revolutionist who fought against the Spanish empire.
Chavez was not without controversy. His socialist government gained many critics, including the United States, as well as many supporters—many of whom included Latin American leaders and Hollywood elites.
During the Bush administration, Chavez gave one of his most ostentatious speeches to the United Nations where he called President George W. Bush “the devil.” He also accused him of “fighting terror with terror” following the war in Afghanistan.