Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías (, Spanish pronunciation: [ˈuɣo rafaˈel ˈtʃaβes ˈfɾi.as] (listen); 28 July 1954 – 5 March 2013) was a Venezuelan politician who was president of Venezuela from 1999 until his death in 2013. Chávez was also leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when it merged with several other parties to form the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), which he led until 2012.
Born into a middle class family in Sabaneta, Barinas, Chávez became a career military officer and, after becoming dissatisfied with the Venezuelan political system based on the Puntofijo Pact, founded the clandestine Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 (MBR-200) in the early 1980s. Chávez led the MBR-200 in an unsuccessful coup d’état against the Democratic Action government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1992, for which he was imprisoned. Pardoned from prison after two years, he founded a political party known as the Fifth Republic Movement and was elected president of Venezuela in 1998 with 56.2% of the vote. He was re-elected in 2000 with 59.8% of the vote and again in 2006 with 62.8% of the vote. After winning his fourth term as president in the October 2012 presidential election with a decrease to 55.1% of the vote, he was to be sworn in on 10 January 2013. However, the inauguration was postponed due to his cancer treatment, and he died in Caracas on 5 March 2013 at the age of 58.Following the adoption of a new constitution in 1999, Chávez focused on enacting social reforms as part of the Bolivarian Revolution. Using record-high oil revenues of the 2000s, his government nationalized key industries, created participatory democratic Communal Councils and implemented social programs known as the Bolivarian missions to expand access to food, housing, healthcare and education. The high oil profits coinciding with the start of Chavez’ presidency resulted in temporary improvements in areas such as poverty, literacy, income equality and quality of life between primarily 2003 and 2007, with a reversal beginning after around 2012; beyond falling oil prices, there are arguments that government policies did not address structural inequalities. On 2 June 2010, Chávez declared an “economic war” on Venezuela’s upper classes due to shortages, arguably beginning the crisis in Venezuela. By the end of Chávez’s presidency in the early 2010s, economic actions performed by his government during the preceding decade, such as deficit spending and price controls, proved to be unsustainable, with Venezuela’s economy faltering. At the same time, poverty, inflation and shortages increased.
Under Chávez, Venezuela experienced democratic backsliding, as he suppressed the press, manipulated electoral laws, and arrested and exiled government critics. His use of enabling acts and his government’s use of propaganda were controversial. Chávez’s presidency saw significant increases in the country’s murder rate and continued corruption within the police force and government.Internationally, Chávez aligned himself with the Marxist–Leninist governments of Fidel and then Raúl Castro in Cuba, as well as the socialist governments of Evo Morales (Bolivia), Rafael Correa (Ecuador) and Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua). His presidency was seen as a part of the socialist “pink tide” sweeping Latin America. Chávez described his policies as anti-imperialist, being a prominent adversary of the United States’s foreign policy as well as a vocal critic of U.S.-supported neoliberalism and laissez-faire capitalism. He described himself as a Marxist. He supported Latin American and Caribbean cooperation and was instrumental in setting up the pan-regional Union of South American Nations, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, the Bank of the South and the regional television network TeleSUR. Chavez’s ideas, programs, and style form the basis of “Chavismo”, a political ideology closely associated with Bolivarianism and socialism of the 21st century.