Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, the son of impoverished teachers and a lieutenant colonel in Venezuela’s military, joins with other officers in a plot against the government of President Carlos Andres Perez, but word about the coup gets out. Some rebels are killed; others, like Chávez, jailed.
3. 1994: His career begins.
Chávez talks to reporters after charges were dropped.
A new president, Rafael Caldera, is elected. He releases the imprisoned rebels in March — much to the public’s delight — but does not allow them to return to the military. Chávez goes on a tour of the country and then travels throughout Latin America, eventually beginning an important and lasting friendship with Fidel Castro.
5. 1997: A rising political star.
Commander Chávez greets the press in Caracas.
Chávez and supporters start a political party, the Movimiento Quinta República, and Chávez becomes their candidate for the 1998 election. Chávez marries Marisabel Rodríguez — his second wife — after she gives birth to their daughter.
7. 1998: The first of many victories.
Chávez and his wife Marisabel in Caracas.
Chávez is elected president with 56% of the vote. His victory is attributed to votes from the “young, the poor, and the politically unsophisticated.”
9. 1999: Waves of change.
Chávez speaks to the press in September 1999, in Manaos, Brazil.
Chávez takes the presidential oath, appoints new Bolivarian government leadership, and cuts many presidential perks, including his wages. His popularity surges, and he becomes known as “El Comandante.” With voter approval, he forms a new, powerful constitutional assembly. He also changes the name of the country (the Republic of Venezuela) to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
11. 2000: More power, another victory.
Chávez talks with his wife in Caracas.
The new Constitution of 1999 takes effect, giving more power to the president and the military and merging the two-chamber legislature into one. It also increased protections for the environment and the rights of women and indigenous people. Venezuelans now have more government transparency and access to education, housing, and health care. Chávez is reelected.
13. 2002: A brief setback.
Chávez after commemorating his two-year anniversary as president.
Chávez is overthrown — for 47 hours — by Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce President Pedro Carmona, who moves to dissolve the National Assembly and void the 1999 Constitution before Chávez reclaims power.
15. 2003: A serious challenge.
Chávez gestures during a demonstration in Caracas.
Two petitions are delivered with millions of purported signatures seeking referendum on Chávez’s rule.
17. 2004: Victory, again.
Chávez gestures in front of more than 100 journalists during a press conference in Caracas.
Chávez pours money into social programs and wins the recall referendum with 58% of the vote. His divorce from Marisabel is finalized.
19. 2005: Tension rises with U.S.
Chávez and Cuban President Fidel Castro speak with journalists at the end of a four-day visit to Havana.
“If I am assassinated, there is only one person responsible: the president of the United States,” Chávez says in an address to the nation. In December, Chávez supporters win 100% of parliament seats after Chávez critics boycott the election.
21. 2006: A third term.
Chávez pays a visit to Castro in his sickbed in Havana.
Chávez wins another term with 63% of the vote. He calls President George W. Bush “the devil” and denies renewing a broadcast license for Venezuelan news organization Radio Caracas Televisión Internacional, which allegedly didn’t pay fines and supported the 2002 coup.
23. 2007: His first big loss.
Chávez speaks during a press conference in Caracas.
Chávez launches broad initiatives to nationalize energy and communications companies and redistribute land. The government also forms a commission to review and amend the 1999 Constitution — suggestions include shortening the work week, extending the presidential term, and prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination. The amendments are rejected.
25. 2008: Strained international relations.
Chávez attends a ceremony with representatives of foreign gas companies.
Human Rights Watch releases a report on Chávez’s decade in power, in which he is praised for expanding his country’s human rights, but criticized for discriminating against people for speech and political association. In retaliation, the government throws out members of Human Rights Watch. Chávez also sends troops to the Venezuela-Colombia border after Colombia raids Venezuelan ally Ecuador. The U.S. and Venezuela expel each other’s ambassadors.
27. 2009: A big win.
Chávez attends an event in Caracas.
Chávez proposes a referendum to remove all public-office term limitations. Voters approve it with a 54% vote, granting him a chance at indefinite presidency.
29. 2011: Public illness.
Chávez holds a meeting with the foreign minister of Brazil, Antonio Patriota.
Chávez travels to Havana multiple times for cancer treatment. He has surgery and reportedly recovers well.
31. 2012: Declining health, increasing power.
Chávez waves a Venezuelan flag while speaking to supporters after receiving news of his reelection.
In a display of recovery, Chávez dances on stage. Before the election, he declares himself in good health. He wins his fourth term with more than 54% of the vote. After the election, Chávez returns to Cuba for more treatment and another surgery. It’s announced that he suffered complications.
33. 2013: A large life ends.
Chavez poses for a photo with his daughters, Maria Gabriela (left), and Rosa Virginia, in Havana, Cuba.
Chávez developed a lung infection that caused “respiratory insufficiency.” He returned to Venezuela and underwent chemotherapy. But by March, his respiratory problems worsened. He died on March 5.
Just before Chávez’s death, Venezuela Vice President Maduro said the president had been infected with cancer by “imperialist” enemies. According to reports, a U.S. embassy official was expelled from the country early Tuesday for allegedly spying on the Venezuelan military.