Hugo Chávez Is Dead: The Ultimate Obit

The controversial leftist revolutionary who rose to become president of Venezuela had been battling cancer, for which he underwent months of treatment in Cuba before returning home to the country he ignited as much as he divided the rest of the world. Here are the top obituaries, photos, reactions, and news updates from around the globe.

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Hugo Chávez, the controversial leftist revolutionary who rose to become president of Venezuela on failed promises of elevating the poor, died on Tuesday afternoon, according to his vice president and likely successor, Nicolas Maduro. Chávez had been battling cancer since 2011, for which he underwent months of treatment in Cuba before returning home to the country he ignited as much as he divided the rest of the world. He was 58.

After months of secrecy, the Venezuelan government announced earlier on Tuesday that Chavez's condition had worsened, before Maduro took to the airwaves to accuse an Air Force attaché of plotting to poison Chavez and then, with a tear, to announce Chavez's passing.

The Venezuelan constitution requires the government to hold an election for the country's next president within 30 days. In the interim, Maduro will serve as the country's president — and despite a vocal opposition, he may be installed permanently.

Update: 6:35 p.m. Eastern: 

Our Philip Bump takes a photo tour through a rogue's gallery of Chavez and his famous photo-op friends, which may explain some of the right-wing rage below. Stay tuned right here and to Reuters' live coverage for the latest.

Update: 6:33 p.m.:

Michael Moynihan at The Daily Beast takes a long view of Chavez's legacy:

This was Chavez’s reign and his legacy; extralegal, vindictive, and interested in the short-term gesture rather than the more difficult, long-term solution. From his revolutionary comrades in Cuba, he borrowed the slogan “patria, socialismo o muerte”—fatherland, socialism, or death.

Update: 6:30 p.m.:

Francisco Toro at The Atlantic plumbs Chavez's paradoxical governance:

He hit a deep vein of gratitude, not only because a torrid oil boom allowed him to channel billions to his supporters, but because his rhetoric of radical empowerment made them feel valued in ways no other leader ever had before.

It's just that, over the past fourteen years, he exploited that vein ever more ruthlessly, strip-mining the people's affection for the gratification of a monstrously overgrown ego and dismantling the institutions of democratic life in the process.

Update: 6:26 p.m.:

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell responded to allegations by Vice President Nicolas Maduro that a U.S. operative was plotting against Chavez and the Venezuelan government:

We completely reject the Venezuelan government’s claim that the United States is involved in any type of conspiracy to destabilize the Venezuelan government.  We reject the specific allegations against members of our Embassy.  Notwithstanding the significant differences between our governments, we continue to believe it important to seek a functional and more productive relationship with Venezuela based on issues of mutual interest.  This fallacious assertion of inappropriate U.S. action leads us to conclude that, unfortunately, the current Venezuelan government is not interested an improved relationship.  

An assertion that the United States was somehow involved in causing President Chavez’s illness is absurd, and we definitively reject it. The United States has options of reciprocal action available to it under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. 

Update: 6:25 p.m.:

President Barack Obama has issued a statement on Chavez's death:

Statement of President Obama on the Death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez’s passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government. As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.

Update: 6:21 p.m.:

Bloomberg News notes Chavez's caffeine addiction:

Known for a work schedule that often involved 40 cups of coffee a day and cabinet meetings lasting past midnight, Chavez slowed down his furious pace in 2011 after a knee injury sidelined him from a regional tour.

So does The New York Times:

Most times his government would not even say which official residence he might be sleeping in, although his aides did reveal that he smoked cigarettes in private and enjoyed coffee; at one point early in his presidency, he consumed as many as 26 cups of espresso a day.

Update: 6:15 p.m.:

Congress Jose Serrano has released an updated statement in support of Chavez:

President Chavez was a controversial leader. But at his core he was a man who came from very little and used his unique talents and gifts to try to lift up the people and the communities that reflected his impoverished roots. He believed that the government of the country should be used to empower the masses, not the few.

Read the entire statement at Business Insider. Here's his original tweet:

Update: 6:10 p.m.:

Congressman Ed Royce is pleased:

Update: 6:07 p.m.:

AOL's Jon Passatino offers some meta-coverage of Chavez's death:

Update: 6:05 p.m.:

NBC takes on Chavez's personality:

To many he was a charming populist who sang and danced on his weekly television show and gave the impoverished a voice; others saw him as an autocrat who plastered his portrait all over the country and failed to deliver on the promises of what he called the "Bolivarian revolution."

Update: 5:50 p.m.:

The Guardian spares nothing in assessing Chavez's economic program:

Venezuela is falling apart: roads crumbling, bridges falling, refineries exploding. A wheezing power grid produces regular blackouts. Public hospitals are dank, prisons filthy and barbaric. Murder and kidnapping rates have soared, imposing a de facto curfew in many cities. The currency was recently devalued for the fifth time in a decade. Many young professionals have emigrated.

However: "The fact remains that Chávez was revered by millions. The slums of cheap brick and corrugated tin that ring the hillsides felt he was on their side, understood their struggle."

Update: 5:44 p.m.:

CNN dissects Chavez's stance toward American power:

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.

Update: 5:40 p.m.:

Jon Lee Anderson at The New Yorker follows up on his massive report on Chavez from January 2013. "To his credit, Chávez was devoted to trying to change the lives of the poor, who were his greatest and most fervent constituents," Anderson writes. But:

What is left ... after Chávez? A gaping hole for the millions of Venezuelans and other Latin Americans, mostly poor, who viewed him as a hero and a patron, someone who “cared” for them in a way that no political leader in Latin America in recent memory ever had. For them, now, there will be a despair and an anxiety that there really will be no one else like him to come along, not with as big a heart and as radical a spirit, for the foreseeable future.

Update: 5:35 p.m.:

Congressman Jose Serrano, who represents portions of the Bronx, tweeted his condolences:

Update: 5:30 p.m.:

Bloomberg News captures Chavez's attempt to continue the legacy of Simon Bolivar:

Along with Castro, Chavez paid homage to the 19th-century liberator of Venezuela and most of the Andean region, Simon Bolivar, citing his writings and changing the name of the country to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. He even exhumed the legendary general’s bones in an attempt to prove that he had been poisoned by Colombian oligarchs and didn’t die from natural causes as is historically documented.

Update: 5:25 p.m.:

The Los Angeles Times weighs Chavez's relationship with Venezuela's poor:

The poor in both the countryside and urban barrios loved him for the "missions" he established to use Venezuela's oil wealth to drastically reduce illiteracy, provide healthcare in the slums and open universities and government jobs to the struggling classes.

Update: 5:23 p.m.Here is a video of Maduro announcing the death:

Update: 5:20 p.m.:

CNN reports on the news conference during which Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced that Chávez had died:

"We must unite now more than ever," he said, calling on Venezuelans to remain peaceful and respectful. [...] "Our people can count on having a government of men and women committed to protecting them," Maduro said.

Update: 5:11 p.m.:

The Associated Press has published a prepared obituary:

Chavez nurtured that cult of personality, and even as he stayed out of sight for long stretches fighting cancer, his out-sized image appeared on buildings and billboard throughout Venezuela. The airwaves boomed with his baritone mantra: "I am a nation." Supporters carried posters and wore masks of his eyes, chanting, "I am Chavez."

The New York Times addresses his physical decline:

Mr. Chávez’s aides eventually announced that a tube had been inserted in his trachea to help his breathing, and that as a result he had difficulty speaking. It was the ultimate paradox for a man who seemed never at a loss for words, often improvising for hours at a time on television, haranguing, singing, lecturing, reciting poetry and orating

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.