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Hugo Chavez as President of Venezuela

Hugo Chavez was elected President of Venezuela in December of 1998. Early in his term he called for a constitutional convention. The convention changed the legislature from bicameral to unicameral and changed the distribution of seats to favor Chavez's political party (The Fifth Republic Movement). The new constitution also lengthened the term of the president from five to six years.

Chavez and Castro

The President of Venezuela then created his own television show called "Alo Presidente" (Hello, President) which is broadcast prominently on Venezuelan Television. It is said that including reruns the president appears on television about 40 hours per week.1 During his tenure he nationalized the oil industry, confiscating the assets of several large U.S. corporations including Exxon-Mobil.2 During his campaign he promised to use oil revenues to help the poor. However, much of the revenues have been spent on overseas initiatives, including subsidizing the government of Cuba3. It has also been established that his revenues have gone to supporting terrorist organizations, especially the FARC which is working to overthrow the government of Columbia4.

Like most leftist governments, Chavez's government clamped down on the free press, closing down newspapers and television stations that disagreed with his point of view. In 2004 a law was passed that allowed government censorship of the press.5

In 2002 a military coup attempted to unseat President Chavez. In April over 800,000 Venezuelans marched in the capital of Caracas. The protest march was broken up by sniper fire from Chavez supporters. Chavez was subsequently arrested for having ordered the military to shoot at the peaceful protesters. However, the arrest was short lived and this coup attempt fell apart when the leaders disagreed on how to proceed. Poor people in the countryside began to loot and riot. The military backed down and restored Chavez to the presidency. Although there is no evidence to justify it, he later claimed that the U.S. was behind the coup.6

On 15 August of 2002 a recall of President Chavez was attempted. The recall failed, but many severe voting irregularities were sited by the parties behind the recall effort7. Further irregularities saw the president reelected in December of 2006. By 2007 his public polls showed him at 37 percent approval within Venezuela. This was partly the result of his having closed down RCTV a private TV channel that had disagreed with el Presidente Chavez8. In 2007 Chavez attempted referendum to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow him to run for president for a third term. The referendum failed.

His relations with the United States were never good, but probably hit a low point in 2006 when U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said that his "Latin brand of populism that has taken countries down the drain".9

In February of 2009, Hugo Chavez made a second attempt to change the constitution to allow him to run for president indefinitely. This time the referendum passed, but not without massive state spending on advertising supporting the referendum and many noted voting irregularities.10

<< Chavez Runs for Presidency of Venezuela | Analysis of the Career of Hugo Chavez >>

  1. Miami Herald, 26 March 2008, "Chavez Grip on Media Getting Stronger"
  2. Venezuela takes over refineries
  3. Venezuela’s Oil-Based Economy
  4. How Hugo Chavez Courted FARC
  5. Ref to:
    LeyMordazaobliglaAutocensurarse-MiamiHerald.htm" - La ''ley mordaza'' obliga a la prensa venezolana a autocensurarse
  6. "Profile: Hugo Chavez", BBC News 3 December 2007
  7. E-Vote Rigging in Venezuela?
  8. Pulling the Plug on Anti-Chavez TV
  9. Condoleezza Rice and Hugo Chavez
  10. Wall Street Journal, 23 Feb 2009, A9