Venezuelan political leader, president of Venezuela.
Educated at the Military Academy of Venezuela (grad. 1975), for two decades he was a career army officer, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
In 1992, Chávez took part in an unsuccessful coup attempt against President Carlos Andrés Pérez and was imprisoned until 1994. A charismatic populist, he became the leader of the leftist Patriotic Pole alliance. Promising a peaceful social revolution, Chávez was elected president in a 1998 landslide.
In office he ended the privatization of Venezuela's state holdings, put himself in control of economic matters, and cut oil production to raise oil prices.
A constituent assembly mainly made up of his supporters wrote a new constitution that granted the president increased powers and a longer possible term of office and weakened the legislature and judiciary. Chávez's popularity with the country's poor increased as he took measures against rampant corruption, criticized the traditional oligarchy, and made more funds available for social programs. He also attacked his critics in business and the media and expanded the role of the military; closer ties were established with Middle Eastern oil-producing nations and Cuba.
Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hold a sign with his name as they gather for a march to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the former paratrooper's first presidential election in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, December 6, 2003.
In 2000, Chávez won office under the new constitution. Despite his populist rhetoric, many expressed fears that he was exhibiting the distinctively dictatorial signs of the classic Latin American military strongman, the caudillo.
Although he retains strong support among the lower classes, opposition to his rule increased, and strikes and demonstrations sparked by his attempts to assert control over the state oil company led to a short-lived coup in April, 2002, and a prolonged strike by oil workers late in 2002.
An attempt by the opposition to recall him through a referendum (August 2004) resulted in a solid vote for Chávez.