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Hugo Chavez - President of Venezuela

The childhood of Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias1 began in poverty (1954) in Sabaneta, Venezuela. He was raised by his grandmother because his mother and father could not afford to support he and his five brothers. Chavez was not an exceptional academic student, however he showed aptitude as an athlete. This was sufficient to get him into Venezuela's military academy where he received his college level education. Upon graduation in 1975 he became an officer in the Venezuelan Army.

Hugo Chavez

The military career of Hugo Chavez progressed slowly, largely because he early showed a tendency to sympathize with insurgency groups in the countryside. Through most of his career he was kept out of military commands. Yet he was able to influence many young officers because he was for a long period a teacher at the same military academy where he had graduated. It was during this time that he made an oath at a tree called the "Seman de Guerre", it was a similar oath to the one Simon Bolivar had made to throw off the yoke of the country's oppressors.

The course of his career changed when Chavez was about to be arrested for conspiracy. Instead of being tried by court marshal he was taken under the wing of an influential general. Soon he was placed in charge of an elite unit of paratroopers in Maracay, not far from the capital of Venezuela. It was from here that he launched his 1992 coup against the government of Carlos Andres Perez. The coup failed when the President Perez escaped from a surrounded Miraflores (the Venezuelan Presidential Mansion).

Chavez was now himself surrounded within the Military History Museum in Caracas. He was induced to surrender, but was allowed to make an announcement on television to ask his supporters to cease fighting. When he did so, he told them to cease fire "por ahora" (for now). This short speech along with his avowal that he was fighting for the sake of the nation's poor brought him many supporters. Chavez remained imprisoned until 1994, when he was released by the new President Caldera, a political foe of Perez.

From 1994 to 1998 Hugo Chavez moved into campaign mode. His initial support was from the radical intellectuals and Venezuela's lower classes. At the beginning of his campaign he had about 10 percent support. However, promises to clean up corruption in the government and to make better use of the country's oil revenues garnered him wider support and continually moved him up in the polls. He took a very open anti-U.S. stance. He won the December 1998 election to become President of Venezuela.

As President of Venezuela, Chavez immediately called for a constitutional convention. This convention served to gather power into the hands of the president. It lengthened his term and revised the legislative branch so that it favored his political party. Because of the new constitution, he was re-elected in 2000. He withstood a military coup in 2002. He was elected again in 2006. Because of term-limits he was not supposed to be able to run again in the next election. To get around this provision, there was a referendum in 2007 to amend the constitution to allow the president to serve an additional term. The referendum failed.

This webfolio on Hugo Chavez is constructed on the InDepthInfo model. It contains a brief article (above) on the subject and is followed by more in-depth articles which can be accessed by using the "next page" links at the bottom of each page, or a direct drill down can be accomplished by clicking on a link in the contents above or in the navbar located at the top of each page. The final page contains an analysis of Hugo Chavez and what he means to Venezuela.

Childhood of Hugo Chavez >>


  1. A note on Venezuelan names: The reader of English will note that the last name for Chavez appears to be Frias. Nevertheless most Venezuelans have two last names, the first is the family name of the father, the second is the family name of the mother. Typically the father's family name, placed before the mother's family name in the name of the child is the family name of the child. It is the name generally used to refer to the person and is subsequently passed along to children.



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