Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías (born July 28, 1954) is the President of Venezuela. A former paratroop lieutenant-colonel who led an unsuccessful coup d'état in 1992, he was elected president in 1999. During his presidency, Venezuela has seen sweeping changes throughout the country, including a new constitution, many new social programs, and a new, self-proclaimed anti-imperial foreign policy. Chávez and his administration have been met with hostility from some established sectors in Venezuela, like the business federation Fedecámaras and union federation CTV, resulting in a coup d'état, general strike/lockout, and recall referendum, all of which failed to remove him from office. Chávez and his allies have made consistent electoral progress, occupying the vast majority of elected municipal, state, and national posts.
Chávez was born in Sabaneta, Barinas State. His father, Hugo de los Reyes Chávez, was a former regional director of education and a former member of the conservative Social Christian Party , and is currently the governor of Barinas.
In 1975, Chávez graduated from the Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences with M.S. in military sciences and engineering. He did further graduate work in political sciences at the Simón Bolívar University in Caracas, but left without a degree.
In 1989, President Carlos Andrés Pérez had presided over unpopular IMF austerity measures that led to protests in 1989, which he brutally suppressed, leaving hundreds dead. On February 4, 1992, Chávez led a failed military coup against President Pérez, in which hundreds were killed. Chávez appeared on television to announce that he and his co-conspirators had not achieved their goals "por ahora" ("for now"). After spending two years in prison, Chávez was pardoned by former President Rafael Caldera and emerged as a politician, organizing a new political party called the Movement for the Fifth Republic.
Chronology of Presidency
Chávez won the presidential election on December 6, 1998 by the largest percent of voters (56.2%) in four decades, running on an anti-corruption and anti-poverty platform, and condemning the two major parties that had dominated Venezuelan politics since 1958 (see: Venezuelan presidential election, 1998). Shortly after taking office on February 2, 1999, Chávez embarked on a series of sweeping changes to the Venezuelan government. He organized a series of elections. The first one, a referendum, authorized calling for a constitutional assembly. A second selected delegates to that Assembly, distinct from his country's legislature. Chávez's initial widespread popularity allowed supporters to win 60% of the votes and 120 of the 131 assembly seats .
In August 1999, the assembly set up a "judicial emergency committee" with the power to remove judges without consulting other branches of government. In the same month, the assembly declared a "legislative emergency." A seven-member committee was created to perform congressional functions, including law-making. The Constitutional Assembly prohibited the Congress from holding meetings of any sort.
The new constitution renamed the country the "Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela", after South American independence hero Simón Bolívar. It increased the presidential term of office to six years and added provisions for presidents to serve two terms, while providing for a new procedure to recall a president. It was approved in a nationwide referendum held in December 1999. Elections for the new, unicameral legislature were held in July 2000. During the same election, Chávez stood for re-election. Chávez's coalition obtained a commanding 2/3 majority of seats in the new unicameral assembly and Chávez himself was reelected (see Venezuelan presidential election, 2000).
In November 2000, he backed a bill through the legislature allowing him to rule by decree for one year. In November 2001, Chávez passed a set of 49 laws by decree, shortly before the enabling law expired, including the "Hydrocarbons law" (regarding oil) and the "Land law" (For more on these laws, see policy below.) Business federation Fedecámaras vehemently opposed the 49 laws and called for a general business strike on December 10, 2001.
In December 2000, Chávez put a referendum on the ballot to force Venezuela's labor unions to hold state-monitored elections. (For more, see below.)
Coup attempt against Chávez
Main article: Venezuelan coup attempt of 2002
On April 9, 2002, Venezuela's largest union federation, the Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CTV), led by Carlos Ortega Carvajal (who was not present at Pedro Carmona's "inauguration" but greeted him the next morning at the Palace), called for a two-day general strike. Fedecámaras joined the strike and called on all of its affiliated businesses to close for 48 hours. (Footage available via Edonkey p2p network ).
On Thursday April 11, an estimated one million people marched to the headquarters of Venezuela's oil company, PDVSA, in defense of its fired management. The organizers decided to re-route the march to Miraflores, the presidential palace, where a pro-government demonstration was taking place. After violence erupted between demonstrators, the metropolitan police (controlled by the opposition) and national guard (controlled by Chávez), 17 people were killed and more than one hundred people were wounded. Doctors who treated the wounded reported that many of them appeared to have been shot from above in a sniper-like fashion.
After commander in chief Lucas Rincon Romero announced to the nation that he had resigned, Chávez was arrested on April 12, 2002, and Fedecámaras president Pedro Carmona was appointed by the military as interim president.  His first decree dissolving all established powers was also his last and did not even make it for publication in the official journal. These events generated a widespread uprising and looting on some sectors of Caracas in support of Chávez that was repressed by the Metropolitan Police. Thus ended the briefest de facto government in Venezuela history with the return of Chávez in the night of Saturday to Sunday April 14.
As a consequence, Venezuela stopped exporting a daily average of 2,800,000 barrels (450,000 m³) of oil and derivatives and began to require the import of gasoline for internal use. Chávez was responsible for the replacement of the upper management of the Venezuelan national oil company as well as the dismissal of 18,000 PDVSA employees, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), allegedly on grounds of mismanagement and corruption, but supporters of the PDVSA board call the action "politically motivated". A court ruling has deemed the dismissal of these workers illegal and has ordered the immediate return of the entire group to their former posts. Nevertheless, Chávez, PDVSA's CEO Alí Rodríguez, and Minister of Mines Rafael Rodríguez have repeatedly expressed that such ruling will not be enforced.
Movement to remove Chávez in a referendum
See also: Venezuelan recall referendum, 2004
In August 2003, opposition leaders began the process to recall Chávez, a procedure first allowed in Venezuela in the 1999 constitution. When the opposition presented the National Electoral Council (CNE) with 3.2 million signatures, the CNE rejected the petition by a vote of 3-0 with 2 members abstaining, ruling that signatures collected before the mid-point of Chávez's term were not valid under Venezuelan law. In November, the opposition conducted another signature drive, again presenting over 3 million signatures.
The recall vote was held on August 15, 2004. Record numbers of voters turned out, and polling hours had to be extended by at least eight hours. 59.25% of the vote was against the recall, for Chávez remaining in office. Election observers Jimmy Carter of the Carter Center and Organization of American States Secretary General César Gaviria endorsed the results of Venezuela's recall referendum. In the following weeks, opposition supporters made numerous claims regarding irregularites. Eventually, most of the opposition agreed that Chávez survived the recall effort.
Arrest of alleged paramilitaries
Main article: Alleged planned Venezuelan coup in 2004
In May 2004, Venezuelan state TV reported the capture of 126 Colombians accused of being paramilitaries, near properties belonging to Cuban exile Roberto Alonso, one of the leaders of the Venezuelan opposition group Bloque Democrático , and media magnate Gustavo Cisneros, a Cuban-Venezuelan Chávez opponent and one of the alleged architects of the 2002 coup. According to one of the detainees, they would have been offered 500,000 Colombian pesos to work on the farm, before being informed that they would have to prepare for an attack on a National Guard base, with the goal of stealing weapons to potentially arm a 3,000-strong militia. 
Venezuelan policy under Chávez
With Chávez's emergence, there have been many social and economic changes in Venezuela. Traditionally, lighter skinned groups have held economic and political sway over this oil-rich nation. The Venezuelan business community, represented by the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Fedecámaras), strongly opposes Chávez and his policies, and the largest labor federation has joined them.
Venezuela is a major producer of oil products, and oil is vitally important to the Venezuelan economy. Chávez has gained a reputation as a price hawk in OPEC, pushing for stringent enforcement of production quotas and higher target prices. He has also attempted to broaden Venezuela's customer base, striking joint exploration deals with other developing countries, including Argentina, Brazil, India, and China.
Chávez has redirected the focus of PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company, bringing it more closely under the direction of the Minister of Energy. He has also attempted to repatriate more oil funds, by raising the percentage of royalties Venezuela receives on joint extraction contracts, and exploring selling some or all of Citgo's assets, a US-based subsidiary of PDVSA.
Chávez has made Latin American integration one of the centerpieces of his policies. This has come in many forms: the creation or extension of joint institutions like Petrosur , Telesur, and Mercosur; bilateral trade relationships with other Latin American countries, including arms purchases from Brazil, oil-for-expertise trades with Cuba, and a pipeline through Colombia. Venezeula's relationship with its neighbor Colombia has been rocky at times, though; with events like the Rodrigo Granda affair temporarily throwing the relationship into crisis.
Venezuela has had a mostly antagonistic relationship with the United States for many reasons: Chávez's hawkish stance in OPEC, his public friendship and trade relationship with Cuba and Fidel Castro; and his numerous public statements in opposition to U.S. economic and foreign policy. In response to the ouster of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, with U.S. assistance, Chávez called U.S. President George W. Bush a pendejo ("prick") and threatened to cut off all oil exports to the United States if it took any more action against his country.  He was also the first democratically-elected president to visit Iraqi President Saddam Hussein since the 1991 Gulf War, on August 11, 2000, and strongly opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The United States has consistently opposed Chávez, though constitutionally elected, recognizing the Carmona government during the 2002 coup, calling Chávez a "negative force" in the region, and requesting support from Venezuela's neighbors in isolating Chávez. On 20 February 2005, Chávez stated that he had reasons to believe that the U.S. had plans to have him assassinated; he said that any attempt would mean that Venezuela would cut off oil to the U.S.  This was a claim first made a week before by Fidel Castro 
Venezuela under Chávez has started numerous social programs: Barrio Adentro, an initiative to provide free health care to poor and underserved areas, Mission Robinson and Mission Sucre to increase literacy and basic education. The literacy programs are centered on learning to read and understand the Venezuelan Constitution and their inherent rights as Venezuelan citizens. These programs have been criticized as inefficient and incomplete by opposition figures but are widely heralded and appreciated by Chávez backers.
Many of these programs involve importing expertise from abroad; Venezuela is providing Cuba with 53,000 barrels (8,000 m³) of below-market-rate oil a day in exchange for the service of hundreds of physicians, teachers, and other professionals. (BBC)
The Ley de Tierras ("Land Law"), passed by decree in November 2001, created Plan Zamora to enact land reforms in Venezuelan agriculture: taxing unused landholdings, expropriating unused private lands (with compensation), and giving inheritable, unsellable land grants to small farmers and farm collectives. Venezuela has seen a vast disinvestment in its rural areas since oil wealth was discovered; the country has an urbanization rate of more than 85% and it is a net food importer. The rationale given for this program was that it would provide incentives for the repopulation of the countryside and provide "food security" for the country by lessening dependence on foreign imports. There are three types of land that may be granted under the program: government land, land which is claimed by private owners, but which the government disputes their claim, and disused private land. To date, only the first two types of land have been distributed.
All of the five mainstream TV networks and most major mainstream newspapers oppose Chávez, but a small minority of the media is said to support him. Chávez claims the opposition media is controlled by the interests which oppose him, whereas the media accuse him of having intimidated journalists with his pronouncements and of allegedly sending gangs to threaten journalists with physical violence.
Chávez has had a combative relationship with the nation's largest trade union confederation, the CTV, historically aligned with the Acción Democrática party. During December 2000 local elections, Chávez placed a referendum on the ballot to force internal elections within unions. The referendum, condemned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) as interference in internal union matters, passed by a large margin on very thin turnout. In the ensuing elections, Carlos Ortega declared victory and remained in office, whereas Chavista candidates declared fraud.
The Union Nacional de los Trabajadores (UNT, National Workers' Union) is a pro-Chávez union federation which has been growing during Chávez's presidency, with some pro-Chávez unions disaffiliating with CTV because of their strident anti-Chávez activism and affiliating with the UNT. In 2003, Chávez sent UNT representatives to an ILO meeting, rather than CTV.
On January 19, 2005, Chávez nationalized Venepal , a paper- and cardboard-manufacturing company at the request of its workers. The company had gone bankrupt and participation in the general lockout in 2003 was its final undoing. Workers occupied the factory and restarted production, but following a failed deal with management and amidst management threats to sell off equipment, Chávez ordered the nationalization, extended a line of credit, and ordered that the Venezuelan educational missions (see above) purchase paper products from the company.
On 30 January, 2005 at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Chávez declared his support for democratic socialism, in his words "a new type of socialism, a humanist one, which puts humans and not machines or the state ahead of everything."  He later reiterated this in a February 26 speech at the 4th Summit on the Social Debt held in Caracas. 
Chávez was married twice and is currently separated from his second wife, Marisabel Rodríguez de Chávez. He has four children; his younger daughter is named Rosines.
- List of national leaders
- History of Venezuela
- Politics of Venezuela
- Bolivarian Revolution
- "Hugo Chávez Frias' Landslide Victory"
- The Devil's Excrement
- Venezuela News and Views
- Letter from Venezuela
- January 15, 2004 State of the Union speech by Chávez
- Venezuelan Politics
- "Hugo Chávez and Petro Populism"
- "Bonds That Bind: Argentina, Venezuela, and the US Current Account Deficit"
- Documentary Film - The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
- - La Revolución no será transmitida (Download)
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