Hugo Rafael ChÃ¡vez FrÃas
(born 28 July 1954)
is the current President of Venezuela, having held that position since 1999. He was formerly the leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when he became the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Following his own political ideology of Bolivarianism and "Socialism for the 21st Century", he has focused on implementing socialist reforms in the country as a part of a social project known as the Bolivarian Revolution, which has seen the implementation of a new constitution, participatory democratic councils, the nationalisation of several key industries, increased government funding of health care and education, and significant reductions in poverty, according to government figures.
Born into a working-class family in Sabaneta, Barinas, ChÃ¡vez became a career military officer, and after becoming dissatisfied with the Venezuelan political system, he founded the secretive Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 (MBR-200) in the early 1980s to work towards overthrowing it. ChÃ¡vez led the MBR-200 in an unsuccessful coup d'Ã©tat against the Democratic Action government of President Carlos AndrÃ©s PÃ©rez government in 1992, for which he was imprisoned. Getting out of prison after two years, he founded a social democratic political party, the Fifth Republic Movement, and was elected president of Venezuela in 1998. He subsequently introduced a new constitution which increased rights for marginalised groups and altered the structure of Venezuelan government, and was re-elected in 2000. During his second presidential term, he introduced a system of Bolivarian Missions, Communal Councils and worker-managed cooperatives, as well as a program of land reform, whilst also nationalising various key industries. On 7 October 2012, ChÃ¡vez won his country's presidential election for a third time defeating Henrique Capriles and will serve for another six years.
ChÃ¡vez describes his policies to be anti-imperialist, and he is a vocal critic of neoliberalism and capitalism more generally, ChÃ¡vez has been a prominent adversary of the United States' foreign policy. Allying himself strongly with the Communist governments of Fidel and then RaÃºl Castro in Cuba and the Socialist governments of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, his presidency is seen as a part of the socialist "pink tide" sweeping Latin America. He has supported Latin American and Caribbean cooperation and was instrumental in setting up the pan-regional Union of South American Nations, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, the Bank of the South, and the regional television network TeleSur. ChÃ¡vez is a highly controversial and divisive figure both at home and abroad.