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 - Significant Land Reform Law

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Later that year, Chávez forced 49 economic decrees through the national assembly just before its special legislative powers were slated to expire. The most dramatic of them was a land reform program. Statistics indicated that 70 percent of Venezuela's fertile land was owned by just three percent of the population; moreover, only four percent of arable land was being farmed. In the new Ley de Tierras, unused land would be given to the landless poor. The Ley began with unused government land, but there were worries that private property would be confiscated as well. That and other economic reforms served to increase the emigration of middle-class Venezuelans, who had been relocating to Florida and Spain since Chávez first took office. Even the Vatican representative in Caracas complained, declaring that the Chávez government was becoming too radical.

There was also a mainstream reaction to Chávez's 49 reforms. The country experienced a widespread work stoppage and a series of bank closures on December 10th. Chávez then surprised many by stating he would consider changing some of his more controversial laws to maintain peace in the country. Despite the conciliatory remarks, his approval rating continued to plummet. He made an especial target of El Nacional, the independently-owned Caracas daily. Its offices were attacked by a rock-throwing mob of Chávez supporters in January of 2002. The president lost further ground after the incident, widely believed to have been staged by his government. Later that month he lost some of his support in the Asamblea Nacional, when members of the Fifth Republic Movement, irate with his policies, allied with the opposition.

In February of 2002, there were further hints that serious opposition was gathering inside the armed forces, and more than one high-ranking officer began to publicly call for Chávez's resignation. Protests took place in the streets of the capital, mimicking those in Argentina in recent weeks, with women banging pots and pans and denouncing government policies. "In a poor Caracas neighborhood, [Chávez] was greeted not with roses but with bitter protest—a sign that the loathing he inspires in the middle and upper classes had dangerously percolated into even the indigent areas that had once invested such hopes in his revolution," wrote Moser in Newsweek International. The New York Times stated that the Bush administration had received hints that a coup might be imminent, and an unnamed State Department source said the Venezuelan representative was warned not to subvert the democratic process in the country. A day before, a fourth high-ranking military officer called for Chavez to step down. "Remember that the people are above all else. And our loyalty is to the nation, not with a particular leader," Air Force General Román Gómez Ruiz was quoted as saying in the New York Times. "President Chávez, for the good of the country and for love of the armed forces, resign peacefully and take responsibility for your failure." But Chávez gave an interview to the French newspaper, Le Monde, and claimed the alleged dissatisfaction among the military was a publicity plot. "Venezuela has a government that was legitimately elected and enjoys popular support," the New York Times Chávez told the French paper. "I might even say that it enjoys more popular support than any other country in the American continent."

Chávez is still an avid baseball player and an occasional playwright as well. With his second wife, María Isabel Rodríguez, he has five children.



Current Leaders of Nations, Gale, 1999.


Business Week, December 13, 1999, p. 34; September 18, 2000, p. 66; May 28, 2001, p. 35.

Commonweal, October 23, 1998, p. 11; February 11, 2000, p. 11.

Cuba News, November 2000, p. 10.

Economist, December 12, 1998, p. 35; February 6, 1999, p. 33; June 5, 1999, p. 33; September 25, 1999, p. 38; February 5, 2000, p. 28; August 5, 2000, p. 35; November 18, 2000, p. 4; December 9, 2000, p. 4; January 20, 2001, p. 4; January 27, 2001, p. 1; March 24, 2001, p. 4; October 27, 2001; February 2, 2002; February 16, 2002.

Editor & Publisher, February 4, 2002, p. 28.

International Economy, May 2001, p. 28.

LatinFinance, July 2000, p. 46.

Latin Trade, November 1999, p. 22.

NACLA Report on the Americas, May 2000, p. 15.

New Republic, June 25, 2001, p. 16.

Newsweek, October 23, 2000 p. 45.

Newsweek International, September 13, 1999, p. 39; October 4, 1999, p. 50; October 4, 1999 p. 52; December 27, 1999, p. 23; February 28, 2000, p. 22; July 31, 2000, p. 21; February 5, 2001, p. 4; August 20, 2001, p. 52; November 12, 2001, p. 49; January 28, 2002, p. 29.

Oil Daily, July 27, 1999; November 30, 2000; January 10, 2001; February 26, 2001; December 11, 2001; February 20, 2002.

New York Times, February 26, 2002.

NotiSur: South American Political and Economic Affairs, September 14, 2001; November 9, 2001; January 18, 2002.

Time, October 9, 2000, p. 70.

Time International, November 23, 1998, p. 26; May 10, 1999, p. 19; August 9, 1999, p. 16; May 29, 2000, p. 26.

U.S. News & World Report, December 21, 1998, p. 40; June 11, 2001, p. 36.


http://www.mre.gov.ve/Chávezing.htm (February 25, 2002).

—Carol Brennan

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