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1999 - Rise of Chavez

Rise of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela - born in poverty, Hugo Chávez rose through the military to become one of the most influential figures in Latin American, pursuing populist policies that brought him into the presidency of Venezuela

Hugo Chavez was born to a pair of schoolteachers in 1954 in Sabaneta, Venezuela.  He excelled at baseball and played on a national team when he got older. Though he was tempted by a career in sports, he ultimately chose to join the military, studying engineering at Venezuela's national military academy.


Popular with his fellow soldiers, Chávez rose through the ranks to colonel, in charge of an elite unit of paratroopers. In 1992, tapping into anger at the government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez, who had ordered the violent repression and killing of protesters, Chávez staged a coup d'etat.


Dogged by betrayals, errors and bad luck, the coup failed, but not before Chávez was given 45 seconds on television to call for his supporters to lay down their arms. The charismatic leader said that his movement had been unsuccessful por ahora—"for now." Within days, the slogan appeared graffitied in the Caracas slums, making Chávez a folk hero to the lower classes.

Sentenced to jail for many years, he was soon pardoned as the Venezuelan government did not consider either him or his movement much of a threat. Yet his uncompromising attacks on political corruption and state incompetence struck a chord in the Venezuelan people


After his release, Chávez formed a new party called the Fifth Republic movement and began to campaign for the presidency. Almost ten months before the election, he attended this February 1998 anniversary celebration of the 1992 coup. His popularity was already evident. Though he had never held public office before, he would go on to win the election, receiving 56% of the vote.


Once President, Chávez's first principal move was to push through a new constitution that replaced Venezuela's American-style bicameral legislature with a single National Assembly and provided for a six-year presidential term that could be extended by re-election. As a leader, Chávez became known for giving lengthy speeches that bounced from policy statements to pep talks, peppered with quotes from figures like Christ and Simón Bolivar, the nationalist military leader Chávez had admired since his student days.

His first term in office was marked by moderation in foreign policy and he was a frequent visitor to the US.

However, domestic policy was more radical, with a particular focus on social programmes. These centred on "missions" dedicated to improving access to health, education, social security, food and land for the poorest sectors of society. An alliance began to take shape with Cuba in order to fulfil these ambitions. His support among the poor soared.

Mr Chavez's success in introducing a new constitution in 2000 signalled longer term ambitions, as he could now run for office again with the option of re-election. The prospect of "Chavismo" becoming permanently established in Venezuela created a backlash among those who had benefited from the old order.


Further Reading


CFR - Venezuela's Chavez Era

History CollectionHugo Chavez and the Venezuelan Socialist Coup

Independent - Hugo Chavez: Paratrooper and Coup Leader Later Elected as Populist President

Independent Institute- The Rise of Hugo Chavez

The Nation - On the Legacy of Hugo Chávez

1999 - President Putin

Putin becomes Russian President - Boris Yelstin resigns and appoints Vladimir Putin as acting President until official elections were held.

putin president.jpg

Russian leader Vladimir Putin was born in 1952 in St. Petersburg (then known as Leningrad). After graduating from Leningrad State University, Putin began his career in the KGB as an intelligence officer in 1975. Putin rose to the top ranks of the Russian government after joining President Boris Yeltsin’s administration in 1998, becoming prime minister in 1999 before taking over as president. Putin was again appointed Russian prime minister in 2008, and retained his hold on power by earning reelection to the presidency in 2012.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, he retired from the KGB with the rank of colonel, and returned to Leningrad as a supporter of Anatoly Sobchak (1937-2000), a liberal politician. On the latter’s election as mayor of Leningrad (1991), Putin became his head of external relations and first deputy mayor (1994).

After Sobchak’s defeat in 1996, Putin resigned his post and moved to Moscow. In 1998 he was appointed deputy head of management in Boris Yeltsin’s presidential administration, in charge of the Kremlin’s relations with the regional governments.

Shortly afterwards, he was appointed head of the Federal Security, an arm of the former KGB, and head of Yeltsin’s Security Council. In August 1999 Yeltsin dismissed his prime minister Sergey Stapashin together with his cabinet, and promoted Putin in his place.

In December 1999 Yeltsin resigned as president, appointing Putin acting president until official elections were held (in early 2000).  He has retained a vice-like grip on power since then.


Further Reading


Meduza - Boris Yeltsin Resigns and Putin Assumes Power

Hudson Institute - How Putin Became President

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