Hugo Chavez Dead

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez Dies at 58

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez Dies at 58

Venezuela's controversial socialist President Hugo Chavez has died from cancer at the age of 58, after leading the country's leftist revolution and serving as president for 14 years. Chavez came to power in 1999 with the support of the Venezuelan poor, and maintained his grip on the country by getting rid of term limits, keeping tight control of the country's media, and maintaining an oversize cult of personality. Before he became ill, he would appear for hours on TV daily in Venezuela attacking his critics, philosophizing, or even singing, and he was very active on Twitter, with four million followers. Chavez was just reelected last year, despite poor health.

Chavez often attacked the Catholic Church and the United States, and the American government returned the favor denouncing Chavez's relationship with Iran and North Korea. President George W. Bush had an especially tumultuous relationship with Chavez, who infamously called Bush the "devil" in 2006 when he appeared at the General Assembly in New York and said: “Yesterday, the devil came here. Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of." Chavez became more open to the US after President Obama's election, telling the UN in 2009: “It doesn’t smell of sulfur here anymore, it’s gone. It smells of something else — it’s hope.” Chavez also had one prominent fan in America: actor Sean Penn, who attended a vigil for Chavez last December and called him "one of the most important forces we've had on this planet."

At home Chavez's legacy is mixed. He used oil money to fund programs like food markets and housing, but inflation and the homicide rate rose to the number one in the world. See photos now of Venezuelans reacting to the news.

Source: Getty