1. ITV Report

Hugo Chavez: Darling of the poor and antagonist of the US

President Hugo Chavez greets supporters during a campaign rally in Caracas last year Photo: REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Hugo Chavez was best known as the popular left wing Venezuelan president whose fiery rhetoric propelled the country onto the world stage.

But he first became widely known with the country as the leader of a failed coup, known as the "Bolivarian Revolution", in 1992.

The Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement claimed 18 lives and left 60 injured before Mr Chavez gave himself up.

As a result, the former Army Paratrooper was jailed for two years. While in jail, his associates attempted a further coup but failed.

Upon his release from prison, Chavez began the transition from soldier to politician, forming the Fifth Republic Movement, which led to his election as president in 1998 and him taking office in 1999.

Yesterday he died at the age of 58 in a military hospital in Caracas, following a two-year battle with cancer. TV News Washington Correspondent Robert Moore looks back at his life:

Born on 28 July 1954 in Sabaneta, Barinas state, the son of schoolteachers, Chavez graduated from military academy in 1975.

Aside from his political career he had four children and was a keen baseball player - once leading a Venezuelan side against a Cuban team headed up by close friend Fidel Castro in Havana.

Chavez was victorious in his first presidential election in the 1990s with promises to better distribute Venezuela's vast oil wealth to the poor.

However, the country's traditional parties began to mobilise against the President. Chavez withstood a failed coup in 2002, then a national strike and a recall referendum in 2004.

The Venezuelan President survived the efforts to unseat him and responded by radicalising his position, both at home and abroad.

He purged the military and politicised it, obliging the armed forces to adopt the Cuban salute of "Fatherland, Socialism or Death!"

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez speaks in the rain during his closing campaign rally in Caracas last year Credit: REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Chavez's socialist policies left him at odds with US President George W. Bush but also as one of the leading figures of a rising group of left-wing leaders across South America.

Venezuela had traditionally been a US ally, but the relationship soured as Chavez condemned the Bush administration's policies on issues such as Afghanistan and free trade.

The President openly accused the US of being behind a short-lived coup which saw him removed from power for a number of days in 2002.

Chavez's government implemented a number of social programmes, including education and health services for all. But poverty and unemployment remain widespread, despite the country's oil wealth.

He was also criticised for trying to silence his political rivals, and the media that supported them, through the courts.

The Queen receives President Hugo Chavez at Buckingham Palace in 2001 Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Archive/Press Association Images

In December 2006, Chavez won a further six-year term after securing 63 per cent of the vote. Three years later he won a referendum that lifted the term limits on elected officials.

In September 2010, he won the majority in the National Assembly elections but his opposition also secured 40 per cent of the seats.

Just months later, in September 2011, Chavez revealed he was being treated for cancer. Further cancer treatments were needed in the following years. But this didn't stop him being re-elected for a sixth term in October 2012.

In December 2012, he underwent further surgery, stating:

With God's will, like on the previous occasions, we will come out of this victorious.

He returned to hospital in Caracas last month before it was announced on Monday that he was suffering from a severe respiratory infection.

He died at a military hospital in Caracas yesterday afternoon.

More on this story