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Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was announced dead today after a long bout with cancer. Vice President Nicolas Maduro delivered the news in a televised broadcast earlier this afternoon.

Although earlier reports as recent as this morning stated that Chávez was alive, Maduro’s tearful announcement confirmed the swirling rumors reports the Los Angeles Times. Chávez ruled Venezuela for 14 years, rising to power despite criticism from the United States and his own government. With the country known as one of Latin America’s richest oil providers, Chávez used the wealth he obtained and distributed vast resources to poor citizens.

Born Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias in 1954 to working class school teacher parents, he later joined the military and rose swiftly in the ranks. Before his presidential rule, Chávez grew dissatisfied by the political machine in his country and formed a social movement group to overthrow the government.  The Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 (MBR-200) was formed in 1982 before morphing into the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), a left-wing Socialist political party. The MVR supported Chávez as he sought presidential candidacy in the late 1990s.

Chávez assumed office in 1999, using strong liberal rhetoric to band together his people. Chávez was well known for combating poverty in Venezuela, using his power to offer free medical care, road repair and other goods and services for those in need. Despite this, Chávez grew to have enemies after being accused of running a dictatorship. Coups and strikes were levied upon Chávez and his leadership, but the rebel attempts to seize his office were thwarted twice by a beefed up military supported with Russian weaponry.

After winning reelection in October 2012, Chávez largely vanished from public sight. It was known that the leader suffered from an unnamed form of cancer, after revealing the news of his disease in 2011. Chávez was so ill that he was unable to attend his inauguration while receiving treatment in Cuba. Reports say Chávez had not been seen in public since his arrival in Cuba last December.

Chávez was a known ally of Fidel Castro, inspired by the Cuban leader’s philosophies of governance.  Both men shared a healthy disdain of the anti-terror campaign enacted by former President G.W. Bush in 2002. Cuba and Venezuela maintained a  trade policy between the countries, often subsidizing goods such as oil and sugar.

See photos below.

Photos: AP/Reuters/Ministry of Information and Communication Handout

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