Monday 19 March 2018

Revolutionary who attracted wrath of US

Frank Bajak

HUGO Rafael Chavez Frias was born on July 28, 1954, in the rural town of Sabaneta in Venezuela's western plains. He was the son of schoolteacher parents and the second of six brothers.

He joined the military at age 17, and burst into public view in 1992 as a paratroop commander leading a failed military rebellion that brought tanks to the presidential palace.

He and other coup prisoners were released in 1994 and President Rafael Caldera dropped the charges against them.

Chavez then organised a new political party and ran for president four years later. At age 44, he became the country's youngest president in four decades of democracy.

Chavez was re-elected in 2000 in an election called under a new constitution drafted by his allies.

His increasingly confrontational style and close ties to Cuba, however, disenchanted many of the middle-class supporters who had voted for him. The next several years saw attempts by opponents to dislodge him from power.

In 2002, he survived a short-lived coup and emerged a stronger president. He defeated a subsequent opposition-led strike that paralysed the country's oil industry and he fired thousands of state oil company employees.

The coup also turned Chavez more decidedly against the US government, which had recognised the provisional leader who briefly replaced him.

He easily won re-election in 2006 and said it was his destiny to lead Venezuela until 2021 or even 2031.

His second marriage, to journalist Marisabel Rodriguez, deteriorated and they divorced in 2004. In addition to their one daughter, Rosines, Chavez had three children from his first marriage.

Only three days before his final surgery, Chavez named Maduro as his chosen successor.

Irish Independent

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