Hugo Chávez

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Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈuɣo rafaˈel ˈtʃaβes ˈfɾ]; born July 28, 1954) is the President of Venezuela, having held that position since 1998. Following his own political ideology of Bolivarianism and purporting "Socialism for the 21st Century", he has attempted to introduce socialist reforms to the country, emphasising the introduction of participatory democracy and further civil rights for women and indigenous groups. Abroad, he has been a vocal critic of capitalism, instead supporting Latin American and Caribbean cooperation, and was instrumental in setting up the pan-regional Union of South American Nations, the Bank of the South, and the regional television network TeleSur. His political influence in South America led Time magazine to include him among their list of the world's 100 most influential people in both 2005 and 2006.[1][2]

Born into a poor working class family in Sabaneta, Barinas, Chávez became a career military officer, founding the secretive Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 in the early 1980s in order to work towards overthrowing Venezuela's Punto Fijo system, which he considered corrupt and un-democratic. The movement orchestrated a failed 1992 attempted coup d'état against President Carlos Andrés Pérez, after the Pérez government ordered the violent repression of protests against spending cuts in a crackdown known as El Caracazo (1989), which saw hundreds killed. Released from prison after two years, Chávez worked to build up the movement, and in 1997 it founded the left-wing Fifth Republic Movement political party in order to participate in the 1998 presidential election, with Chávez its candidate. Chávez promised to bring prosperity to Venezuela's poor majority, to tackle inequality, and to hold a constituent assembly to develop a new constitution to codify a range of new legal rights. After winning the Presidency, much of the first two years were taken up with this task. Chávez was re-elected in 2000 under the new 1999 Venezuelan Constitution.

In the early years, aside from constitutional reform, Chávez pursued a relatively non-radical "Third Way" course, with his "Bolivarian Revolution" evident more through rhetoric than action. In 2000 Plan Bolívar 2000 saw the use of the military in a range of poverty relief efforts, in November 2001 a package of measures included some land reform, and in early 2002 he created a legal framework for urban land titling. From 2003 to 2005 a system of Bolivarian Missions were developed, of which the best known is the health mission. Since 2005 Chávez has aimed to deepen the Revolution, emphasising participatory democracy through Communal Councils and worker-managed cooperatives, and founding the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in 2007. He has also nationalised a range of large companies, including Venezuela's main telephone company and leading steel company, and following the 2003 economic crisis, he reinstituted exchange controls, with dual exchange rates.

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