Hugo Chavez dead at 58

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (the charismatic leftist who dominated his country with sweeping political change and flamboyant speeches) died Tuesday at age 58, after a long battle with cancer that was shrouded in mystery and prevented him from being inaugurated for a fourth term.
Adored or reviled for his self-styled populist revolution, Chavez held sway over Venezuela through a cult of personality, government reforms that championed the downtrodden, and an endless stream of rhetoric denouncing capitalism, imperialism and the United States.
The ‘Chavistas’ praised El Comandante for reducing extreme poverty and expanding access to health care and education. Critics blamed him for high inflation, food shortages, escalating crime and mismanagement of the country’s oil industry.
Human rights groups lambasted him for politicizing the judicial branch, and undermining the democratic system of checks and balances.

Hugo Chavez dead at 58
Hugo Chavez.

Even in death, Hugo Chavez’s orders are being followed. The man he anointed to succeed him (Vice President Nicolas Maduro) will continue to run Venezuela as interim president and be the governing socialists’ candidate in an election to be called within 30 days.
Foreign Minister Elias Jaua confirmed those plans Tuesday, just hours after Maduro, tears running down his face, announced the death of Chavez – the larger-than-life former paratroop officer who had presided over Venezuela as virtually a one-man show for more than 14 years.
It was not immediately clear when the presidential vote would be held.
Considerable funereal pageantry was expected to honor Chavez – the political impresario widely adored among Venezuela’s poor for putting the oil-rich state in their service.

At two defining moments of his rule, Venezuela’s theatrical leader Hugo Chavez took a small silver crucifix from his pocket and held it above his head.
Both marked a quasi-religious “return” for the socialist ex-soldier whom supporters loved with messianic fervor. First from a 2002 coup that saw him jailed on a tiny Caribbean island, and then from cancer surgery in Cuba in June 2011.
As he held aloft the crucifix from a balcony of his Miraflores Palace after returning from surgery, the maverick president of South America’s biggest oil exporter said he was putting his fate in the hands of God and the Virgin Mary.
“Today, the revolution is more alive than ever. I feel it, I live it, I touch it … If Christ is with us, who can be against us? If the people are with us, who can be against us?” he said, working his supporters into a frenzy.
“But no one should think my presence here means the battle is won. No” – he cautioned, turning the screams of joy at his homecoming to tears at the fragile state of his health.
Chavez died in hospital on Tuesday, finally succumbing to the cancer after four operations in Cuba. His death ended 14 years of charismatic, volatile rule that turned him into a major world figure.

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