Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died Tuesday at the age of 58. He had been facing a long battle with cancer that had prevented him from being inaugurated for a fourth term.
A self-described champion of the poor who first tried to overturn Venezuela’s powerful elites in a failed 1992 coup, Chavez was democratically elected in 1999 with huge support from the country’s poor.
During his time in office, he became one of Latin America’s most well-known and polarizing figures. A constant thorn in the side of the United States, he commanded headlines in newspapers around the world. A populist who suppressed free speech, he remained immensely popular among his country’s poor.
From the time he won election in 1999, Chavez held onto power through tightly controlling the media and through a series of populist elections and referenda, including one that allowed him to seek a limitless number of terms.
The death apparently sets up a presidential election to replace Chavez. Under the Venezuelan Constitution, the head of Congress, Diosdado Cabello, would assume the interim presidency.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro said “We have no doubt that Chavez’s cancer was induced by foul play by the historical enemies of our homeland.”