March 6 - Late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez rose from humble beginnings to become a political legend. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died in hospital on Tuesday (March 05), finally succumbing to cancer after four operations in Cuba. His death ended 14 years of charismatic, volatile rule that turned him into a major world figure. Born the second of six sons of teachers in the cattle-ranching plains of Barinas state and raised by his grandmother Rosa Ines in a mud-floor shack, the young Chavez first aspired to be a painter or pitcher in the U.S. Major Leagues. Chavez burst onto the national stage when he led a 1992 coup attempt against then leader Carlos Andres Perez. The coup failed and Chavez surrendered, but he cut a dashing figure dressed in green fatigues and a red beret for a famous speech live on TV before being carted off to jail. His comment that the coup had failed "por ahora" ("for now") electrified many Venezuelans, especially the poor, who admired Chavez for standing up to a government they felt was increasingly corrupt and cold to their needs. After being pardoned in 1994, he launched his self-proclaimed "Bolivarian Revolution" - named for Venezuela's 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar. He took over from his mentor Fidel Castro as the leader of Latin America's left-wing bloc and its loudest critic of the United States, winning friends and enemies alike with a cutting and dramatic frankness that no one could match. Military officers briefly pushed him out in their own coup in 2002, but Chavez proved himself to be a survivor and bounced back to power after two days incommunicado and under arrest, some of it at an island military base. In 2011, when the cancer first struck, Chavez stretched his physical limits by staying at the front of his government while running a successful but hobbled campaign to win a new six-year term at an October 7 election. His critics regularly accused him and his government of being corrupt and inept, and of steering the country towards a Cuban-style authoritarian regime. Certainly, a clutch of opponents ended up in exile or jail, normally on graft charges they said were trumped up.