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Hugo Chavez

After a protracted illness and ailing over the last little while, Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez passed away today.

Apart from often being vilified, scorned and made fun of, who was the man?

The New York Times, probably with an American angle to the report, backgrounds Chavez.

"Hugo Chávez, who rose from poverty in a dirt-floor adobe house to unrivaled influence in Venezuela as its president, consolidating power and wielding the country’s oil reserves as a tool for his Socialist-inspired change, died Tuesday, Vice President Nicolás Maduro said. He was 58.

Mr. Maduro said Mr. Chávez died at the military hospital in Caracas, where he had been treated for complications arising from his long struggle with cancer.

With a televangelist’s gift for oratory, Mr. Chávez led a nationalist movement that lashed out at the United States government, moneyed Venezuelans and his own disaffected followers, whom he often branded as traitors.

He was a dreamer with a common touch and enormous ambition. He maintained an almost visceral connection with the poor, tapping into their resentments, while strutting like the strongman in a caudillo novel. His followers called him Comandante.

But he was not a stock figure. He grew up a have-not in an oil-rich country that prized ostentatious consumption. He was a man of mixed ancestry — African, indigenous and Spanish — who despised a power structure dominated by Europeanized elites. As a soldier he hated hunting down guerrillas, but had no qualms about using weapons to seize power, as he and a group of military co-conspirators tried but failed to do in 1992. Even so, he rose to power in democratic elections, in 1998.

In office, he upended the political order at home and used oil revenues to finance client states in Latin America, notably Bolivia and Nicaragua. Inspired by Simón Bolívar, the mercurial Venezuelan aristocrat who led South America’s 19th-century wars of independence, Mr. Chávez sought to unite the region and erode Washington’s influence."

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