Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Dies
The polarizing figured died after a two-year battle with cancer Video by fox47news.comvideo
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has died after a two-year battle with cancer. The socialist leader underwent lengthy treatment in Cuba for an undisclosed form of cancer, having at least three operations including one to remove a tumor he described as "the size of a baseball" from his abdomen.
Backed largely by Venezuela's poor, he promised to spread the wealth from the nation's oil reserves. His role models were Fidel Castro and from history, Simon Bolivar, whom he idolized in a cult of personality, even renaming the country as the Bolivaria Republic of Venezuela. He referred to the U.S. as the evil empire and famously branded U.S. President George W. Bush as "the Devil," during an address at the United Nations and warned his countrymen frequently of an impending U.S. invasion of Venezuela.
His erratic behavior was increasingly criticized as clown-like, but Chavez would win re-election twice, relying on high oil prices to fund wide ranging ambitions at home and, he hoped, as a global counterweight to U.S. influence.
In a nation of 30 million people it was one man, Hugo Chavez, who controlled the presidency, the parliament, the judiciary and the media, shutting down any television or radio stations which were critical of his rule and forging ahead with increased government control over the private economy.
Chavez continued to enjoy strong support from Venezuela's poor, despite increasing street violence and one of the highest inflation rates in the world. When in good health he was a constant presence on state-controlled television, giving hour long speeches which by law had to be carried on every channel.
His absence creates a vacuum of power which both supporters and opponents will no doubt try to claim. The big question is with divisions between the two side so bitter, whether any transition can be achieved peacefully.
Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro will assume interim presidency, and an election will be called in 30-days. In a statement Tuesday President Obama said the U.S. re-affirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with that country's government.