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Eternal memory of a real leader

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Hugo Rafael Chavez Fias was born into a working class family in Sabaneta, Barinas. Hugo was born as the second of seven children. Adan Chavez was the eldest in their family. Their parents lived in poverty, which led them to send Hugo and Adan to live with their grandmother, Rosa. She was a devout Roman Catholic, and Hugo was an altar boy at a local church. Hugo described his childhood as “poor ... very happy” and experienced “humanity, poverty, pain, some times not having anything to eat” and “the injustices of this world.”

In the mid-1960s, Hugo, his brother and their grandmother moved to city of Berinas so that boys could attend to the Deniel O’Leary high school. At the age of 17 Chavez studied at Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences in Caracas.
After becoming dissatisfied with the Venezuelan political system, he founded secretive Revolutionary Bolivian Movement - 200 (BMR - 200) in early 1980s to work towards overthrowing it. Chavez led the BMR - 200 in an unsuccessful project against the Democratic Action of president Carlos Anres Peres in 1992, for which he was imprisoned and released from prison after two years.

Chavez’s presidential inauguration took place on February 2, 1999. After electing as the President of Venezuela he made several alterations to his presidential privileges, scrapping the presidential limousine, giving away his entire presidential wage of $1,200 a month to a scholarship fund. Spending on education as a percentage of GDP stood at 5.1% in 2006, as opposed to 3.4% in the last years of the Cadera Government. Spending on health has increased from 1.6% of GDP in 2000 to 7.7%. Under Chavez, Venezuelans’ quality of life improved according to a UN index and the poverty rate fell from 48.6 percent in 2002 to 29.5 percent in 2011, according to UN Economic Commission for Latin America.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) reported that the Venezuelan economy grew on average by 11.85% in the period of 2004-2007. According to The Washington Post, citing statistics from the United Nations, poverty in Venezuela stood at 28% in 2008 has decreased by 55.44%. During his period economic expansion, the poverty rate was cut by more than half, from 54 percent of households in the first half of 2003 to 26 percent at the end of 2008. Extreme poverty fell by 72 percent.
According to official statistics from minister of Land and Agriculture, soya bean production in Venezuela has grown by 85.8% to 54,420 tons over the past decade, and production of rice has risen by 84%, reaching close to 1.3 millions tons yearly. Chavez has also seen significant increase in milk production to 50% over ten years supported by some sources. During the period of 1998 to 2006 malnutrition related deaths fell by 50%. Under his presidency the ‘Gini Coefficient’ a measure of income in quality dropped from nearly 0.5 in 1998 to 0.39 in 2011, putting Venezuela behind only Canada in the western hemisphere.

Chavez was strictly enforcing the price control policy. In 2008, Chavez ordered the military to seize 750 tons of food that sellers were illegally trying to smuggle across the borders to sell for higher prices than what was legal in Venezuela.
In order to explain his latest thoughts and plans to the Venezuelan people he launched his own Sunday morning radio show, ‘Hello, President’ as well as the Tuesday night television show ‘Face to Face with the president.’ In his television and radio shows, he answered calls from citizens, discussed his latest politics, sang songs and told jokes, making it unique not only in Latin¬ America, but the entire world.

He was re-elected in 2006 with over 60% of the vote. On October 7, 2012 Chavez won his countries presidential for fourth time defeating Henrique Capreiles for another six-year term. On June 30, 2011, Chavez stated that he was recovering from an operation to remove an abscessed tumor with cancerous cells. He was to have been sworn in on January 10, 2013, but the National Assembly of Venezuela agreed to postpone the inauguration to allow him time to recuperate and return from a third medical treatment in Cuba.
He died in Caracas on March 5, 2013 at the age of 58.

Thilini Atapattu

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