Other Free Encyclopedias » Brief Biographies » Biographies: Katie Burke (1953–) Biography - Personal to Galeazzo Ciano (1903–1944) Biography » Hugo Chávez: 1954—: President Biography - Childhood In Farming Village, Became Legitimate Political Threat, Re-elected With Larger Majority, Significant Land Reform Law

Hugo Chávez: 1954—: President - Re-elected With Larger Majority

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Venezuela's new constitution called for elections in 2000. Chávez won a sound 60 percent of the vote. He was a charismatic leader, and citizens regularly pressed "wish letters" into his hands during public appearances. Tales circulated that Chávez had interceded to help many in personal or financial crises. His weekly radio call-in program, Alo Presidente, offered him a chance to solve problems, dispense wisdom, and explain his government's policies.

At times, Chávez's foreign policy worried Washington, for the United States was dependent on Venezuelan oil and interested in maintaining good relations. Chávez spurned an offer of ships and Army Corps of Engineers personnel after 1999 floods killed several thousand, and he refused to allow anti-drug flights over Venezuelan territory. As Chávez told Newsweek's Weymouth, "what would be the opinion of President Clinton if President Chávez asked for permission to conduct flights over Washington? We cannot violate our sovereignty." He also made visits to Iraq and its president, Saddam Hussein, as well as to Libya and to Cuba. He invited Castro for a state visit, where they played baseball for the press. The Chávez government was also accused of aiding leftist rebels in next-door Colombia. Interviewed by Maria Amparo Lasso for Newsweek International, Chávez stated his position clearly. "We do not have a relationship with the guerrillas," he told Lasso. "We decided not to continue the line of previous Venezuelan governments who declared that the guerrillas were the common enemy of Colombia and Venezuela. The guerrillas are not our enemy, unless they attack Venezuela, which has not occurred. What we've done is facilitate the paths for a dialogue to peace."

Since taking office, Chávez has been accused of displaying increasingly dictatorial behavior. In June of 2001, the El Pantaletazo, or "G-String" Scandal erupted. An anonymous mailing to 140 top Venezuelan military officers included women's undergarments and the taunt that they were not macho enough to stage a coup against Chávez. At other times, Chávez charged that Pérez, the former president, now living in Miami, was behind a conspiracy to unseat him.

Chávez provoked a minor diplomatic squabble in the fall of 2001, when he appeared on Venezuelan national television and displayed a photograph of slain Afghan women and children. He linked their deaths to the U.S.-led military effort launched that October. "We must find the terrorists," a report in NotiSur quoted him as saying. "But not like this…. Look at these children. These children were alive yesterday. They were eating with their parents and a bomb fell on them." The U.S. ambassador to Venezuela was recalled to Washington.

Hugo Chávez: 1954—: President - Significant Land Reform Law [next] [back] Hugo Chávez: 1954—: President - Became Legitimate Political Threat

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