Why Famous: Hugo Chávez rose to prominence as a military officer before founding the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 in an attempt to overthrow the government in 1992. After a jail sentence he formed the socialist political party the Fifth Republic Movement and was elected President in 1998.
During his first term Chávez brought in a new constitution backed by a public referendum. During his 2nd term Chávez stepped up a program of social reform, nationalizing key industries, implementing land reform and worker cooperatives. By 2006 he was pressing even stronger with his policy of “21st-century socialism”.
Chávez increasing aligned himself with leftist leaning governments most prominently that of Cuba and against American foreign policy.
Chávez’s government survived a coup in 2002 supported by the military. His popularity rebounded and he was elected for a third term. In his last years Chávez received treatment for cancer but eventually died in office in March 2013.
While his governments are remembered controversially for ruling often by decree and for restricting freedom of the press he was also part of a wave of left wing South American leaders who was able to channel the disaffection of the working class and address their wrongs.