A single party (Front), known as the TPLF has been fully in control of the country since 1991 after seizing power by violent means. In the last 26 years of its repressive rule, the TPLF regime has never been willing to create a conducive atmosphere for fruitful engagement and a genuine political dialogue with all stakeholders in the country. This blog is mainly focused on raising awareness, driving change and creating impact for the realization of a genuine multiparty democracy in Ethiopia.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Hugo Chavez, influential leader with mixed record, dies at 58
By Mariano Castillo and Osmary
March 6, 2013
Venezuelan president-elect Chavez visits Bogota, Colombia,
on December 18, 1998. On December 6, Chavez had been elected the youngest
president in Venezuela history.Army
Lt. Col. Hugo Chavez, who led a 1992 attempted coup, speaks to reporters on
March 26, 1994, after he was freed from jail. Chavez was freed after charges
were dropped against him for leading the first of two attempted coups against
the government of former President Carlos Andres Perez, who was later removed
Chavez greets supporters with his then-wife, Marisabel Rodriguez de Chavez,
beside him as he arrives to preside over a parade in his honor on February 4,
1999, in Caracas. Chavez was sworn in as president on February 2
inspects military maneuvers of the national Air Force on March 17, 2001, in
Catilletes near the border with Colombia. In June 2000, Chavez was re-elected to
the presidency for a six-year term, under the new constitution created by his
government in 19HIGHLIGHTS
Chavez, 58, led a wave of leftist leaders in Latin America
His idol was Simon Bolivar
Reforms took socialist path
Critics said many of his programs were unsustainable
Caracas, Venezuela (CNN) -- Hugo Chavez, the polarizing president of Venezuela who cast
himself as a "21st century socialist" and foe of the United States, died Tuesday, said Vice President Nicolas Maduro.
Chavez, who had battled cancer,
Chavez's democratic ascent to the
presidency in 1999 ushered in a new era in Venezuelan politics and its
A look at the life of Hugo
Vice president: Hugo Chavez is
Hugo Chavez's 2009 interview
Once a foiled coup-plotter, the
swashbuckling former paratrooper was known for lengthy speeches on everything
from the evils of capitalism to the proper way to conserve water while
showering. He was the first of a wave of leftist presidents to come to power in
Latin America in the last dozen years.
As the most vocal U.S. adversary
in the region, he influenced other leaders to take a similar stance.
But the last months of Chavez's
life were marked by an uncharacteristic silence as his health worsened. Chavez
underwent a fourth surgery on December 11 in Cuba, and was not publicly seen
again. A handful of pictures released in February were the last images the
public had of their president.
Chavez's ministers stubbornly
maintained a hopeful message throughout the final weeks, even while admitting
that the recently re-elected president was weakened while battling a respiratory
Chavez launched an ambitious
plan to remake Venezuela, a major oil producer, into a socialist state in the
so-called Bolivarian Revolution, which took its name from Chavez's idol, Simon
Bolivar, who won independence for many South American countries in the early
"After many readings, debates,
discussions, travels around the world, etcetera, I am convinced -- and I believe
this conviction will be for the rest of my life -- that the path to a new,
better and possible world is not capitalism. The path is socialism," he said on
his weekly television program in 2005.
Chavez redirected much of the
country's vast oil wealth, which increased dramatically during his tenure, to
massive social programs for the country's poor. He expanded the portfolio of the
state-owned oil monopoly to include funding for social "missions" worth millions
of dollars. That helped pay for programs that seek to eradicate illiteracy,
provide affordable food staples and grant access to higher education, among
But Chavez also leaves a legacy
of repression against politicians and private media who opposed him.
He concentrated power in the
executive branch, turning formerly independent institutions -- such as the
judiciary, the electoral authorities and the military -- into partisan
Celebrities and Hugo Chavez
Ban Ki-moon reacts to Chavez's
The relationship between
Chavez and U.S.
2006: Chavez calls Bush 'the
Through decrees and a judiciary
tilted in the president's favor, many political opponents found themselves
barred from running in elections against the ruling party. Even former allies,
like Chavez's onetime defense minister, Gen. Raul Baduel, faced accusations that
critics called trumped-up corruption charges.
Chavez's government similarly
targeted opposition broadcasters, passing laws and decrees that forced at least
one major broadcaster and dozens of smaller radio and television stations off
Opponents also have criticized
his social programs, calling them unsustainable over the long run and
responsible for unintended consequences. Price controls, for instance, drove up
inflation, while expropriations of farmland depressed production.
Vocal critic of American
In lengthy, freewheeling
speeches, Chavez saved his most acerbic barbs for the "imperialist" United
States and its "colonial" allies in the region.
He accused the United States of
trying to orchestrate his overthrow, and referred to President George W. Bush as
the devil in front of the United Nations General Assembly.
At home, business interests
accused him of scaring off investment by abusing the power of expropriation.
Venezuela struggled to grow its economy during this period, even as the nation
was flush with money from oil, which was at about $17 a barrel when Chavez took
office and rose to more than $100 a barrel.
In addition to domestic social
programs, the Chavez government pumped money into his foreign policy interests.
He invested millions of dollars in oil and cash in countries that were
Chavez considered former Cuban
leader Fidel Castro a mentor, and aligned his country with Iran and other
nations opposed to the United States.
Cuba loses a benefactor in
Chavez, whose provision of an oil lifeline at below-market prices could be at
risk under a new government.
While Chavez admired Castro, he
found most inspiration from Bolivar, even renaming the country the Bolivarian
Republic of Venezuela.
An affable, if sometimes
bombastic, man, Chavez had a disarming manner that even his critics could not
Some called his style
buffoonish, but he spoke like an ordinary Venezuelan -- not like a bureaucrat --
and voters reacted positively.
Other leftist leaders elected
after him, like Bolivia's Evo Morales, Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Nicaragua's
Daniel Ortega, followed Chavez's example to varying extents.
Chavez could also be secretive.
He was slow to publicly admit that he had cancer, and never shared what type of
cancer affected him. The government kept a tight seal on details of the
president's treatment and declining health.
The death of the Venezuelan
president leaves a sharply polarized country, with no clear successor for his
party and an untested opposition. Chavez' passing means new elections will be
held, although he had said previously he wanted Maduro to succeed him.
Chavez was born in the plains
state of Barinas, in southwest Venezuela, on July 28, 1954, the third of the
seven children of two educators.
As a child, he was an altar boy
who went on to develop a great love of baseball. Recently, even as questions
arose about his health, the media-savvy Chavez sought to reassure the public by
playing catch with his foreign minister on state television.
Chavez became more
authoritarian over the years
As a young man, he enrolled in
the Military Academy of Venezuela, reaching the rank of sub-lieutenant in 1975.
He joined the parachute corps of the army and rose through the ranks to become a
His first political steps came
when he founded the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement, or MBR-200, in 1982. A
decade later, on February 4, 1992, he led a failed military rebellion against
then-President Carlos Andres Perez. He also made his first public appearance in
front of the television cameras.
"Compatriots, sadly for now the
objectives that we proposed were not achieved in the capital city," he said.
"That is to say, we here in Caracas did not succeed in gaining power. You did it
very well out there, but now is time to avoid more bloodshed. Now is time to
reflect and new situations will come."
Chavez served two years in
prison before then-President Rafael Caldera granted him amnesty.
Chavez went on to form a new
political party, the Fifth Republic Movement, which carried him to a
presidential election victory in 1998. His fiery campaign speeches blamed the
traditional parties for corruption and poverty.
Chavez married twice and
divorced twice. He had three children with his first wife, Nancy Colmenarez:
Rosa Virginia, Maria Gabriela and Hugo Rafael.
Years later, he married
Marisabel Rodriguez, with whom he had a fourth daughter, Rosa Ines. He divorced
in 2003; Venezuela has had no first lady since then.
Upon taking office, Chavez made
rewriting the constitution one of his first orders of business. A July 2000
referendum affirmed the new constitution, which the government printed as a
little blue book that Chavez used regularly as a prop during speeches.
In the following years, the
charismatic Chavez rattled off a string of electoral victories that made him
seem almost invincible.
He won re-election in 2000,
survived a recall election in 2004, and won another six-year term in 2006.
Chavez secured another
re-election victory in October, describing his win as "a perfect battle, and
totally democratic." He vowed to "be a better president every day."
A turning point for Chavez came
in April 2002, when a coup briefly removed him from office.
But the interim government
couldn't consolidate power, and within 48 hours, with the help of the military,
Chavez returned to power.
While short-lived, the coup had
a profound effect on Chavez, who took a more accelerated authoritarian and
leftist turn afterward.
Human Rights Watch wrote in 2010
that the coup provided a pretext for policies that undercut human rights.
"Discrimination on political
grounds has been a defining feature of the Chavez presidency," the report
"At times, the president himself
has openly endorsed acts of discrimination. More generally, he has encouraged
his subordinates to engage in discrimination by routinely denouncing his critics
as anti-democratic conspirators and coup-mongers -- regardless of whether or not
they had any connection to the 2002 coup," the report said.
He clamped down on
broadcasters, other media
Consolidation of power in the
presidency -- to the detriment of separation of powers -- became a theme in
Another challenge to Chavez's
rule followed the coup. From December 2002 to February 2003, a crippling general
strike pressured the president. The economy took a hit, but Chavez outlasted the
The following year, in 2004, the
opposition gathered enough signatures to hold a recall referendum on Chavez, but
again, the president survived.
Chavez's vitriol toward the
United States also increased in the period after the brief coup because
Washington had tacitly approved it.
In one of his most memorable
insults, Chavez said of Bush in 2006 before the U.N. General Assembly:
"The devil came here yesterday.
And it smells of sulfur still today."
In 2007, Chavez tasted defeat
for the first time, in a referendum seeking approval for constitutional reforms
that would have deepened his socialist policies. Nonetheless, thanks to a
National Assembly friendly to him, Chavez achieved some of his goals, including
That same year, Chavez created a
new political party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, which merged his
party with several other leftist parties.
His detractors accused him of
being authoritarian, populist and even dictatorial for having pushed through a
constitutional reform that allowed indefinite re-election.
Increasingly, Chavez used
legislation to clamp down on broadcasters and other media. His government
relentlessly went after opposition broadcaster Globovision, accusing it of a
number of violations, from failure to pay taxes to disregarding a media
The broadcaster is the last
remaining TV network that carries an anti-Chavez line, since the president
refused to renew the license of another opposition station, RCTV, allegedly over
telecommunication regulation violations. The station had to go off public
airwaves and transmit solely on cable.
Abroad, Chavez was also known
for his colorful -- if sometimes strange -- statements.
Last year, after several Latin
American leaders were diagnosed with cancer, himself included, he wondered if
the United States was behind it.
"Would it be strange if (the
United States) had developed a technology to induce cancer, and for no one to
know it?" he asked.
During a water shortage that
Venezuela suffered in 2009, he took to the airwaves to encourage Venezuelans to
take showers that lasted only three minutes.
At a summit in 2007, his
repeated attempts to interrupt resulted in King Juan Carlos of Spain saying to
him, "Why don't you shut up?"
Chavez was a believer that the
days of the "Washington consensus," a model of economic reforms favored by the
United States for developing countries, were over.
Along with Cuba, Ecuador,
Bolivia, Nicaragua and some Caribbean countries, Chavez formed the Bolivarian
Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, or ALBA, a group intended to offer an
alternative to U.S. influence in the region.
As president, Chavez made clear
his ambitions of being a regional and international leader who left, in his own
way, changes that awakened passions and feelings in favor and against --
everything except indifference.
CNN's Mariano Castillo reported from Atlanta and
journalist Osmary Hernandez reported from Caracas. CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet
contributed to this report