President of Venezuela Dies
The country reacts to the death of controversial leader Hugo Chávez
PHOTO: Although he was a controversial figure, millions of Venezuelans mourn Chávez’s death. (Jiang Kehong / Xinhua News Agency / eyevine / Redux)
MAP: The United States and Venezuela had a complicated and tense relationship while Chavez ruled. (Jim McMahon)
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela died on Tuesday at age 58. He had been treated in hospitals for cancer since December.
Both beloved by many and widely criticized, Chávez had served as President of the South American country for 14 years. He was elected President four times, first taking office in 1999.
GREAT LEADER OR DICTATOR?
Chávez was one of the world’s most controversial leaders. Critics say his presidency was more like a dictatorship—a government run by one leader who has almost total control of a country.
Venezuela’s politicians and courts were often pressured to pass his laws. Chávez and his advisers strongly influenced what the country’s television networks were able to broadcast and what its newspapers were able to print. Though he won many elections over the years, Chávez had also made competition very difficult for his political rivals.
But Chávez was still a very popular ruler in his country. People believed that he had changed things for the better in Venezuela. He is especially admired for making Venezuelans feel like the government was listening to their complaints and wanted to fix their problems.
“Venezuela will not go back to what it was,” Luz Stella Antolinez, a doctor at a state-run hospital, told The New York Times. “All these millions of people, for 14 years the President spoke to them, now they know they are worth something.”
Still, Chávez’s popularity has dropped in recent years. Protests and opposition have grown. People in the country and around the world are wondering what will happen next.
AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
A funeral for Chávez is planned for Friday. Many world leaders are expected to attend.
According to Venezuela’s constitution, an election must be held within 30 days to pick a new President. For now, Vice President Nicolás Maduro will run the government. He is also expected to run for President next month.
Henrique Capriles Radonski, one of Chávez’s main opponents, is expected to run against Maduro. He urged calm, saying, “This is not the hour for differences. It is the hour for union. It is the hour for peace.”