Hugo Chávez and Portrait of Simón Bolívar
Born in 1954 to schoolteacher parents in a rural Venezuelan village, Hugo Chávez joined the army at age 16 and rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Along the way, he became interested in leftist politics and developed a strong admiration for the 19th-century revolutionary and independence hero Simón Bolívar, who would remain an important idol throughout Chávez’s career. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images)la
Scene From Failed 1992 Coup
Chávez entered the public spotlight as the leader of an unsuccessful 1992 military coup against the government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez. The 38-year-old rebel would spend two years in prison for his actions before being pardoned by President Rafael Caldera, who took office after Pérez’s impeachment. (Jose Cohen/AFP/GettyImages)la
Hugo Chávez Campaigns in Caracas in 1998
In 1998 Chávez ran for president and won, relying on grassroots strategies to spread the message of his “Bolivarian Revolution.” Once in office, he launched a sweeping social welfare program and introduced a new constitution that strengthened his authority. (Bertrand Parres/AFP/Getty Images)la
Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro in 1999
As president, Chávez hoped to follow in the footsteps of Simón Bolívar by uniting Latin America. He formed alliances with fellow leaders such as Cuba’s Fidel Castro. (Matias Recart/AFP/Getty Images)la
Chávez Opponents Protest in Caracas in 2002
The “Comandante” faced one of his greatest tests in 2002, when a coup led by military officers and right-wing politicians temporarily ousted him. He returned to power two days later. As a result of the attempt, Chávez radicalized his agenda and stepped up his anti-American rhetoric. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)la
Hugo Chávez Addresses the U.N. General Assembly in 2006
In 2006 Chávez made headlines by calling American President George W. Bush “the devil” during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Later that year, after winning reelection to a six-year term, he openly declared his aim to transform Venezuela into a socialist state. (Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)la
Supporters Celebrate Hugo Chávez’s Victory in February 2009
In 2009, a national referendum granted Chávez the right to eliminate the two-term limit for public office and thus seek reelection indefinitely. He told critics that he planned to stay in power until 2031. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images)la
Newspapers Announcing the Death of Hugo Chávez
On June 31, 2011, Chávez revealed that he was suffering from cancer. Less than two years later, on March 5, 2013, Vice President Nicolás Maduro announced that he had died. Maduro will serve as interim president and run as the governing party candidate in elections that will take place within 30 days. (Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images)la
Supporters Mourn Hugo Chávez in Caracas
Supporters in Venezuela have gathered to publicly mark the president’s passing. Among his critics, however, including Venezuelan expatriates living in Miami, the reaction has been less mournful. (Leo Ramirez/AFP/Getty Images)la
- 10 Things You May Not Know About Bonnie and Clyde
- 8 Things You Didn't Know About Catherine the Great
- 9 Things You May Not Know About the Declaration of Independence
- The Real-Life Story Behind "Lone Survivor"
- What If the Moon Landing Had Failed?
- 9 Things You May Not Know About Lizzie Borden
- 8 Things You May Not Know About Queen Elizabeth II
- 5 Things You May Not Know About Lincoln, Slavery and Emancipation
History.com on Facebook
More to Explore
Follow Eustace, Tom and Marty as they devote their lives to surviving off the grid, on their own terms.
Get the real story behind this famous World War II icon.
Explore 7 ways the battle changed the course of the Civil War.
Watch the exclusive web series.
This Day in History
NASA created, 1958
On this day in 1958, the U.S. Congress passes legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a civilian agency responsible f…