Hugo Chavez- A leader who raised Venezuela's profile

Hugo Chavez- A leader who raised Venezuela's profile

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died after battling cancer, was a tough and charismatic leader, whose idiosyncratic brand of socialism gave hope to the poorest people in the Latin American country.

According to the BBC, his strident criticism of the US won him many friends among the political leaders in Latin America and he effectively used his country’s vast oil reserves to boost Venezuela’s international clout. But to his political opponents, he was the worst type of autocrat, intent on building a one-party state and ruthlessly clamping down on any who opposed him.

Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias was born July 28, 1954 in the state of Barinas. He was one of seven children. His parents were both school teachers and the family lived in relative poverty.

He attended the Daniel O’Leary High School in Barinas city before going to the Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences in the capital, Caracas where, he later said, he found his true vocation.

He found time to study the lives of the 19th Century South American revolutionary leader Simon Bolivar and Che Guevara. He graduated in 1975 and had already begun to form political ideas that he would later put into practice as president, including the belief that the military had a duty to step in if a civilian government was deemed to have failed to protect the poorest in society.

He was posted to one of the many counter-insurgency units tackling Marxist groups bent on overthrowing the presidency of Carlos Andres Perez.

In 1981, he was assigned to teach at the military academy where he had been a student and found himself in a position to indoctrinate the next generation of army officers with his political ideas, BBC said.

In 1992, he led an attempt to overthrow the government of Perez, amid growing anger at economic austerity measures that had led to widespread protests.

A revolt by members of the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement claimed 18 lives before Colonel Chavez gave himself up.

He was languishing in a military jail when his associates tried again to seize power nine months later.

The second coup attempt in November 1992 was crushed as well.

Chavez spent two years in prison before relaunching his party as the Movement of the Fifth Republic, making the transition from soldier to politician.

He spent time canvassing and found strong support and friendship from Cuba’s revolutionary president, Fidel Castro.

Chavez believed in overthrowing the government by force but was persuaded to change his mind and instead became a candidate in the 1998 presidential elections.

Venezuela had enjoyed an unbroken period of democratic government since 1958, but the two main parties, which had alternated in power, stood accused of presiding over a corrupt system and squandering the country’s vast oil wealth.

Chavez promised “revolutionary” social policies, and constantly abused the “predatory oligarchs” of the establishment as corrupt servants of international capital.