Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Dies at 58

The long-time leader, popular for his leftist views and tight control over oil, succumbs to cancer

After a long battle with cancer, Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela for the last 14 years, has died. He was 58 years old.

The socialist leader had been elected to another term last October, but was never sworn in because of his failing health. The Associated Press writes:

A self-described “subversive,” Chavez fashioned himself after the 19th-century independence leader Simon Bolivar and renamed his country the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

He called himself a “humble soldier” in a battle for socialism and against U.S. hegemony. He thrived on confrontation with Washington and his political opponents at home, and used those conflicts to rally his followers.

Chavez came into the public eye in 1992 in a failed attempt to overthrow then-President Carlos Andres Perez. Over the next six years, his populist views gained popularity with Venezuelans, who elected him president in 1998. During his presidency, the military officer-turned-politician took control of the country’s massive oil industry and launched anti-poverty campaigns. He also built friendships with the Castro brothers and other leftist leaders in Latin America, much to the United States’ chagrin.

In the months before his death, little was known about the leader’s health. Aside from several pictures released by the government, Chavez had been unseen by the public for months. He had four operations since June 2011, and was undergoing further treatment at a hospital in Caracas.

Three days before his final surgery last December, Chavez named Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who announced the president’s death, as his chosen successor.

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