The Amazon River

English: Amazon River floating village neighbo...
English: Amazon River floating village neighborhood in Iquitos, Peru. Deutsch: Schwimmende Häusersiedlung auf dem Amazonas in Iquitos, Peru. Français : Amazone, Iquitos, Pérou. Español: Amazonas, Iquitos, Perú. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Amazon River (US pron.: /ˈæməzɒn/ or UK /ˈæməzən/; Spanish & Portuguese: Amazonas) in South America is the second longest [2][not in citation given] river in the world and by far the largest by waterflow with an average discharge greater than the next seven largest rivers combined (not including Madeira and Rio Negro, which are tributaries of the Amazon). The Amazon, which has the largest drainage basin in the world, about 7,050,000 square kilometres (2,720,000 sq mi), accounts for approximately one-fifth of the world’s total river flow.[3][4]
 
In its upper stretches, above the confluence of the Rio Negro, the Amazon is called Solimões in Brazil; however, in Peru, Colombia and Ecuador, as well as the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, the river is generally called the Amazon downstream from the confluence of the Marañón and Ucayali rivers in Peru. The Ucayali-Apurímac river system is considered the main source of the Amazon, with as its main headstream the Carhuasanta glacial stream flowing off the Nevado Mismi mountain.
 
The width of the Amazon is 1.6 and 10 kilometres (1.0 and 6.2 mi) at low stage but expands during the wet season to 48 kilometres (30 mi) or more. The river enters the Atlantic Ocean in a broad estuary about 240 kilometres (150 mi) wide. The mouth of the main stem is 80 kilometres (50 mi).[5] Because of its vast dimensions, it is sometimes called The River Sea. The first bridge in the Amazon river system (over the Rio Negro) opened on 10 October 2010 near Manaus, Brazil.
 
Drainage area
The Amazon Basin, the largest in the world, covers about 40% of South America, an area of approximately 7,050,000 square kilometres (2,720,000 sq mi). It drains from west to east, from Iquitos in Peru, across Brazil to the Atlantic. It gathers its waters from 5 degrees north latitude to 20 degrees south latitude. Its most remote sources are found on the inter-Andean plateau, just a short distance from the Pacific Ocean. The locals often refer to it as “El Jefe Negro”, referring to an ancient god of fertility.
 
The Amazon River and its tributaries are characterized by extensive forested areas that become flooded every rainy season. Every year the river rises more than 9 metres (30 ft), flooding the surrounding forests, known as várzea (“flooded forests”). The Amazon’s flooded forests are the most extensive example of this habitat type in the world.[6] In an average dry season, 110,000 square kilometres (42,000 sq mi) of land are water-covered, while in the wet season, the flooded area of the Amazon Basin rises to 350,000 square kilometres (140,000 sq mi).[7]
 
The quantity of water released by the Amazon to the Atlantic Ocean is enormous: up to 300,000 cubic metres per second (11,000,000 cu ft/s) in the rainy season, with an average of 209,000 cubic metres per second (7,400,000 cu ft/s) from 1973 to 1990.[8] The Amazon is responsible for about 20% of the Earth’s fresh water entering the ocean.[6] The river pushes a vast plume of fresh water into the ocean. The plume is about 400 kilometres (250 mi) long and between 100 and 200 kilometres (62 and 120 mi) wide. The fresh water, being lighter, flows on top of the seawater, diluting the salinity and altering the color of the ocean surface over an area up to 1,000,000 square miles (2,600,000 km2) in extent. For centuries ships have reported fresh water near the Amazon’s mouth yet well out of sight of land in what otherwise seemed to be the open ocean.[4]
 
The Atlantic has sufficient wave and tidal energy to carry most of the Amazon’s sediments out to sea, thus the Amazon does not form a true delta. The great deltas of the world are all in relatively protected bodies of water, while the Amazon empties directly into the turbulent Atlantic.[9]
There is a natural water union between the Amazon and the Orinoco basins, the so-called Casiquiare canal. The Casiquiare is a river distributary of the upper Orinoco, which flows southward into the Rio Negro, which in turn flows into the Amazon. The Casiquiare is the largest river on earth that links two major river systems, a so-called bifurcation.
 
In 1500, Vicente Yáñez Pinzón was the first European to sail into the river.[23] Pinzón called the river flow Río Santa María del Mar Dulce, later shortened to Mar Dulce (literally, sweet sea, because of its fresh water pushing out into the ocean). For 350 years after the first European encounter of the Amazon by Pinzón, the Portuguese portion of the basin remained an untended former food gathering and planned agricultural landscape occupied by the indigenous peoples who survived the arrival of European diseases. There is ample evidence for complex large-scale, pre-Columbian social formations, including chiefdoms, in many areas of Amazonia (particularly the inter-fluvial regions) and even large towns and cities.[24] For instance the pre-Columbian culture on the island of Marajó may have developed social stratification and supported a population of 100,000 people.[25] The Native Americans of the Amazon rain forest may have used Terra preta to make the land suitable for the large-scale agriculture needed to support large populations and complex social formations such as chiefdoms.[25]
 
One of Gonzalo Pizarro‘s lieutenants, Francisco de Orellana, set off in 1541 to explore east of Quito into the South American interior in search of El Dorado and the “Country of Cinnamon“.[26] He was ordered to follow the Coca River and return when the river reached its confluence. After 170 km, the Coca River joined the Napo River (at a point now known as Puerto Francisco de Orellana), and his men threatened to mutiny if he followed his orders and the expedition turned back. On 26 December 1541, he accepted to change the purpose of the expedition to the conquest of new lands in the name of the King of Spain, and the forty-nine men built a larger boat in which to navigate downstream. After a journey of 600 km down the Napo River, constantly threatened by the Omaguas, they reached a further major confluence, at a point near modern Iquitos, and then followed what is now known as the Amazon River for a further 1,200 km to its confluence with the Rio Negro (near modern Manaus), which they reached on 3 June 1542.
 
This area around the Amazon was dominated by the Icamiaba natives, who were mistaken for fierce female warriors by the members of the expedition.[citation needed] Orellana later narrated the belligerent victory of the Icamiaba “women” over the Spanish invaders to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, who, recalling the Amazons of Greek mythology, baptized the river Amazonas, the name by which it is still known in both Spanish and Portuguese. At the time, however, the river was referred to by the expedition as Grande Río (“Great River”), Mar Dulce (“Fresh Water Sea”) or Río de la Canela (“Cinnamon River”). Orellana claimed that he had found great cinnamon trees there, in other words a source of one of the most important spices reaching Europe from the East. In fact, true cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) is not native to South America. Other related cinnamon-containing plants (of the family Lauraceae) do occur, and Orellana may have observed some of these. The expedition continued a further 1,200 km to the mouth of the Amazon, which it reached on 24 August 1542, demonstrating the practical navigability of the Great River.
 
Underground river
Scientists have discovered the longest underground river in the world, in Brazil, running for a length of 6,000 km at a depth of nearly 4 km. It flows from the Andean foothills to the Atlantic coast in a nearly west-to-east direction like the Amazon River. The discovery was made public in August 2011[35] meeting of the Brazilian Geophysical Society in Rio de Janeiro. The river, named Hamza after the discoverer, an Indian-born scientist Valiya Hamza who is working with the National Observatory at Rio, makes it the first and geologically unusual instance of a twin-river system flowing at different levels of the earth’s crust in Brazil. If the slowing down of certain seismic waves caused by the damp spot helped uncover the underground ocean, the unusual temperature variation with depth measured in 241 inactive oil wells helped locate the subterranean river.
 
Except for the flow direction, the Amazon and the Hamza have very different characteristics. The most obvious ones are their width and flow speed. While the Amazon is 1 km to 100 km wide, the Hamza is 200 km to 400 km in width. But the flow speed is five meters per second in the Amazon and less than a millimeter per second speed in the Hamza.[35]
 
Several geological factors have played a vital role in the formation and existence of these subterranean water bodies. The underground ocean, discovered in 2007, has been formed when the plate carrying the Pacific Ocean bottom gets dragged and ends up under the continental plate. Water at such depths would normally escape upwards but the unusual conditions that exist along the eastern Pacific Rim allow the moisture to remain intact. In the case of the Hamza, the porous and permeable sedimentary rocks behave as conduits for the water to sink to greater depths. East-west trending faults and the karst topography present along the northern border of the Amazon basin may have some role in supplying water to the river. If the impermeable rocks stop the vertical flow, the west to east gradient of the topography directs it to flow towards the Atlantic Ocean. Unlike the Hamza, the 153 km-long underground river in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and the 8.2 km-long Cabayugan River in the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in the Philippines have come into being thanks to the karst topography. Water in these places drills its way downward by dissolving the carbonate rock to form an extensive underground river system.
 
 
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Panama Canal

The man-made 77 km (48 mile) Panama Canal changed the course of shipping and travel by connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans across a narrow strip of land in Panama. Completed in 1914, the canal enables ships to pass through a series of locks to get from one side to the other and eliminates the need for ships to take the much longer and dangerous route around the tip of South America. Today more than 14,000 ships pass the Panama Canal every year.

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Hugo Chávez

English: Hugo Chávez in Porto Alegre, Brazil. ...
English: Hugo Chávez in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Jan/26/2003. Português: Porto Alegre (RS), 26/01/2003 (Agência Brasil – ABr) – Ao lado do governador do Rio Grande do Sul, Germano Rigotto (esq.), o presidente da Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, acena para multidão na sacada do Palácio Piratini, sede do governo estadual. (Foto: Victor Soares/ABr – hor-61) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

   

Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈuɣo rafaˈel ˈtʃaβes ˈfɾi.as]; 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 constitutionparticipatory 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.[1]
Born into a working-class family in Sabaneta, Barinas, Chávez 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. Chávez led the MBR-200 in an unsuccessful coup d’état against the Democratic Action government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez 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 MissionsCommunal Councils and worker-managed cooperatives, as well as a program of land reform, whilst also nationalising various key industries. On 7 October 2012, Chávez won his country’s presidential election for a third time, defeating Henrique Capriles, and was elected for another six-year term.[2]
Chávez describes his policies to be anti-imperialist, and he is a vocal critic of neoliberalism and laissez-faire capitalism more generally, Chávez has been a prominent adversary of the United States’ foreign policy.[3] Allying himself strongly with the Communist governments of Fidel and then Raúl 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. Chávez is a highly controversial and divisive figure both at home and abroad.
On 30 June 2011, Chávez stated that he was recovering from a 10 June operation to remove an abscessed tumor with cancerous cells.[4] He required a second operation in December 2012.[5]
Chávez was to have been sworn in on January 10, 2013, but the National Assembly of Venezuela has agreed to postpone the inauguration to allow him time to recuperate and return from a third medical treatment trip to Cuba.[6]

Early life
Childhood: 1954–70
Further information: Early life of Hugo Chávez
SabanetaBarinas, where Chávez was born and raised.
Hugo Chávez was born on 28 July 1954 in his paternal grandmother Rosa Inéz Chávez’s home, a modest three-room house located in the rural villageSabanetaBarinas State. The Chávez family were of AmerindianAfro-Venezuelan, and Spanish descent.[7] His parents, Hugo de los Reyes Chávez andElena Frías de Chávez, were working-lower middle class schoolteachers who lived in the small village of Los Rastrojos. Hugo was born the second of seven children, including their eldest, Adán Chávez.[8][9] The couple lived in poverty, leading them to send Hugo and Adán to live with their grandmother Rosa,[10] whom Hugo would later describe as being “a pure human being… pure love, pure kindness.”[11] She was a devout Roman Catholic, and Hugo was an altar boy at a local church.[12] Hugo described his childhood as “poor…very happy”, and experienced “humility, poverty, pain, sometimes not having anything to eat”, and “the injustices of this world.”[13]
Attending the Julián Pino Elementary School, Chávez’s hobbies included drawing, painting, baseball and history. He was particularly interested in the 19th-century federalist general Ezequiel Zamora, in whose army his own great-great-grandfather had served.[14][15] In the mid-1960s, Hugo, his brother and their grandmother moved to the city of Barinas so that the boys could attend what was then the only high school in the rural state, the Daniel O’Leary High School.[16]
Military Academy: 1971–75
Aged seventeen, Chávez decided to study at the Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences in Caracas. At the Academy, he was a member of the first class that was following a restructured curriculum known as the Andrés Bello Plan. This plan had been instituted by a group of progressive, nationalistic military officers who believed that change was needed within the military. This new curriculum encouraged students to learn not only military routines and tactics but also a wide variety of other topics, and to do so civilian professors were brought in from other universities to give lectures to the military cadets.[17][18][19] Living in Caracas, he saw more of the endemic poverty faced by working class Venezuelans, something that echoed the poverty he had experienced growing up, and he has maintained that this experience only made him further committed to achieving social justice.[20][21] He also began to get involved in local activities outside of the military school, playing both baseball and softball with the Criollitos de Venezuela team, progressing with them to the Venezuelan National Baseball Championships. Other hobbies that he undertook at the time included writing numerous poems, stories and theatrical pieces, painting[22] and researching the life and political thought of 19th-century South American revolutionary Simón Bolívar.[23]He also became interested in the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara (1928–67) after reading his memoir The Diary of Che Guevara, although he also read books by a wide variety of other figures.[24]
In 1974 he was selected to be a representative in the commemorations for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Ayacucho in Peru, the conflict in which Simon Bolívar’s lieutenant, Antonio José de Sucre, defeated royalist forces during the Peruvian War of Independence. It was in Peru that Chávez heard the leftist president, General Juan Velasco Alvarado (1910–1977), speak, and inspired by Velasco’s ideas that the military should act in the interests of the working classes when the ruling classes were perceived as corrupt,[25] he “drank up the books [Velasco had written], even memorising some speeches almost completely.”[26] Befriending the son of Panamanian President Omar Torrijos (1929–1981), another leftist military general, Chávez subsequently visited Panama, where he met with Torrijos, and was impressed with his land reform program that was designed to benefit the peasants. Being heavily influenced by both Torrijos and Velasco, he saw the potential for military generals to seize control of a government when the civilian authorities were perceived as serving the interests of only the wealthy elites.[25][27] In contrast to military presidents like Torrijos and Velasco however, Chávez became highly critical of Augusto Pinochet, the right-wing general who had recently seized control in Chile with the aid of the American CIA.[28] Chávez would later relate that “With Torrijos, I became a Torrijist. With Velasco I became a Velasquist. And with Pinochet, I became an anti-Pinochetist.”[29] In 1975, Chávez graduated from the military academy, being rated one of the top graduates of the year (eight out of seventy five).[30][31][32]
Early military career: 1976–81
Further information: Military career of Hugo Chávez
I think that from the time I left the academy I was oriented toward a revolutionary movement… The Hugo Chávez who entered there was a kid from the hills, a Ilanero with aspirations of playing professional baseball. Four years later, a second-lieutenant came out who had taken the revolutionary path. Someone who didn’t have obligations to anyone, who didn’t belong to any movement, who was not enrolled in any party, but who knew very well where I was headed.
Hugo Chávez.[33]
Following his graduation, Chávez was stationed as a communications officer at a counterinsurgency unit in Barinas,[34] although the Marxist-Leninist insurgency which the army was sent to combat had already been eradicated from that state, leaving the unit with much spare time. Chávez himself played in a local baseball team, wrote a column for the local newspaper, organized bingo games and judged at beauty pageants.[35] At one point he found in an abandoned car riddled with bullet holes a stash of Marxist literature that apparently had belonged to insurgents many years before. He went on to read these books, which included titles by such theoreticians as Karl MarxVladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong, but his favourite was a work entitled The Times of Ezequiel Zamora, written about the 19th-century federalist general whom Chávez had admired as a child.[36]These books further convinced Chávez of the need for a leftist government in Venezuela, later remarking that “By the time I was 21 or 22, I made myself a man of the left.”[37]
In 1977, Chávez’s unit was transferred to Anzoátegui, where they were involved in battling the Red Flag Party, a Marxist-Hoxhaist insurgency group.[38] After intervening to prevent the beating of an alleged insurgent by other soldiers,[39] Chávez began to have his doubts about the army and their methods in using torture.[37] At the same time, he was becoming increasingly critical of the corruption in both the army and in the civilian government, coming to believe that despite the wealth being produced by the country’s oil reserves, Venezuela’s poor masses were not receiving their share, something he felt to be inherently un-democratic. In doing so, he began to sympathise with the Red Flag Party and their cause, if not their violent methods.[40]
In 1977, he founded a revolutionary movement within the armed forces, in the hope that he could one day introduce a leftist government to Venezuela: the Venezuelan People’s Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación del Pueblo de Venezuela, or ELPV), was a secretive cell within the military that consisted of him and a handful of his fellow soldiers. Although they knew that they wanted a middle way between the right wing policies of the government and the far left position of the Red Flag, they did not have any plans of action for the time being.[39][41][42] Nevertheless, hoping to gain an alliance with civilian leftist groups in Venezuela, Chávez then set about clandestinely meeting various prominent Marxists, including Alfredo Maneiro (the founder of the Radical Cause) andDouglas Bravo, despite having numerous political differences with them.[43][44] At this time, Chávez married a working-class woman named Nancy Colmenares, with whom he would go on to have three children: Rosa Virginia (born September 1978), Maria Gabriela (born March 1980) and Hugo Rafael (born October 1983).[45]
Revolutionary activity
Later military career and the Bolivarian Revolutionary Army-200: 1982–91
Five years after his creation of the ELPV, Chávez went on to form a new secretive cell within the military, the Bolivarian Revolutionary Army-200 (EBR-200), later redesignated the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 (MBR-200).[17][46][47] Taking inspiration from three Venezuelans whom Chávez deeply admired, Ezequiel Zamora (1817–1860), Simón Bolívar (1783–1830) and Simón Rodríguez (1769–1854), these historical figures became known as the “three roots of the tree” of the MBR-200.[48][49] Later describing the group’s foundation, Chávez would state that “the Bolivarian movement that was being born did not propose political objectives… Its goals were imminently internal. Its efforts were directed in the first place to studying the military history of Venezuela as a source of a military doctrine of our own, which up to then didn’t exist.”[50] However, he always hoped that the Bolivarian Movement would become politically dominant, and on his political ideas at the time, remarked that “This tree [of Bolívar, Zamora and Rodríguez] has to be a circumference, it has to accept all kinds of ideas, from the right, from the left, from the ideological ruins of those old capitalist and communist systems.”[51] Indeed, Irish political analyst Barry Cannon noted that the early Bolivarian ideology was explicitly capitalist, but that it “was a doctrine in construction, a heterogeneous amalgam of thoughts and ideologies, from universal thought, capitalism, Marxism, but rejecting the neoliberal models currently being imposed in Latin America and the discredited socialist and communist models of the old Soviet Bloc.”[52]
In 1981, Chávez, by now a captain, was assigned to teach at the military academy where he had formerly trained. Here he indoctrinated new students in his so-called “Bolivarian” ideals, and recruited those whom he felt would make good members of the MBR-200, as well as organizing sporting and theatrical events for the students. In his recruiting attempts he was relatively successful, for by the time they had graduated, at least thirty out of 133 cadets had joined it.[53] In 1984 he met a Venezuelan woman of German ancestry named Herma Marksman who was a recently divorced history teacher. Sharing many interests in common, she eventually got involved in Chávez’s movement and the two fell in love, having an affair that would last several years.[54][55]Another figure to get involved with the movement was Francisco Arias Cárdenas, a soldier particularly interested in liberation theology.[56] Cárdenas rose to a significant position within the group, although came into ideological conflict with Chávez, who believed that they should begin direct military action in order to overthrow the government, something Cárdenas thought was reckless.[57]
However, some senior military officers became suspicious of Chávez after hearing rumours about the MBR-200. Unable to dismiss him legally without proof, they re-assigned him so that he would not be able to gain any more fresh new recruits from the academy. He was sent to take command of the remote barracks at Elorza in Apure State,[58] where he got involved in the local community by organizing social events, and contacted the local indigenous tribal peoples, the Cuiva and Yaruro. Although they were distrustful due to their mistreatment at the hands of the Venezuelan army in previous decades, Chávez gained their trust by joining the expeditions of an anthropologist to meet with them. His experiences with them would later lead him to introduce laws protecting the rights of indigenous tribal peoples when he gained power many years later.[59] While on holiday, he retraced on foot the route taken by his great-grandfather, the revolutionary Pedro Pérez Delgado(known as Maisanta), to understand his family history; on that trip, he met a woman who told Chávez how Maisanta had become a local hero by rescuing an abducted girl.[60] In 1988, after being promoted to the rank of major, the high-ranking General Rodríguez Ochoa took a liking to Chávez and employed him to be his assistant at his office in Caracas.[61]
Operation Zamora: 1992
In 1989, Carlos Andrés Pérez (1922–2010), the candidate of the centrist Democratic Action Party, was elected President after promising to oppose the United States government’s Washington Consensus and financial policies recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Nevertheless, he did neither once he got into office, following instead the neoliberal economic policies supported by the United States and the IMF. He dramatically cut spending, put prominent men in governmental posts. Pérez’s policies angered some of the public.[62][63][64] In an attempt to stop the widespread protests and looting that followed his social spending cuts, Pérez ordered the violent repression and massacre of protesters known as El Caracazo, which “according to official figures … left a balance of 276 dead, numerous injured, several disappeared and heavy material losses. However, this list was invalidated by the subsequent appearance of mass graves”, indicating that the official death count was inadequate.[65][66][67] Pérez had used both the DISIP political police and the army to orchestrate El Caracazo. Chávez did not participate in the repression because he was then hospitalized with chicken pox, and later condemned the event as “genocide“.[68][69]
Disturbed by the Caracazo, rampant government corruption, the domination of politics by the Venezuelan oligarchy through the Punto Fijo Pact, and what he called “the dictatorship of the IMF”, Chávez began preparing for a military coup d’état,[67][70] known as Operation Zamora.[71] Initially planned for December, Chávez delayed the MBR-200 coup until the early twilight hours of 4 February 1992. On that date, five army units under Chávez’s command moved into urban Caracas with the mission of overwhelming key military and communications installations, including theMiraflores presidential palace, the defense ministry, La Carlota military airport and the Military Museum. Chávez’s immediate goal was to intercept and take custody of Pérez, who was returning to Miraflores from an overseas trip. Despite years of planning, the coup quickly encountered trouble. At the time of the coup, Chávez had the loyalty of less than 10% of Venezuela’s military forces,[72] and, because of numerous betrayals, defections, errors, and other unforeseen circumstances, Chávez and a small group of rebels found themselves hiding in the Military Museum, without any means of conveying orders to their network of spies and collaborators spread throughout Venezuela.[73] Furthermore, Chávez’s allies were unable to broadcast their prerecorded tapes on the national airwaves, during which Chávez planned to issue a general call for a mass civilian uprising against the Pérez government. Finally, Chávez’s forces were unable to capture Pérez, who managed to escape from them. Fourteen soldiers were killed, and fifty soldiers and some eighty civilians injured during the ensuing violence.[74][75][76]
Realising that the coup had failed, Chávez gave himself up to the government. On the condition that he called upon the remaining active coup members to cease hostilities, he was allowed to appear on national television, something that he insisted on doing in his military uniform. During this address, he invoked the name of national hero Simón Bolívar and declared to the Venezuelan people that “Comrades: unfortunately, for now, the objectives we had set for ourselves were not achieved in the capital city. That is, those of us here in Caracas did not seize power. Where you are, you have performed very well, but now is the time for a reflect. New opportunities will arise and the country has to head definitively toward a better future.”[77] Many viewers noted that Chávez had remarked that he had failed only “por ahora” (for now),[17][78][79][80][81] and he was immediately catapulted into the national spotlight, with many Venezuelans, particularly those from the poorer sections of society, seeing him as a figure who had stood up against government corruption and kleptocracy.[82][83][84]
Chávez was arrested and imprisoned at the San Carlos military stockade, where he remained wracked with guilt, feeling responsible for the coup’s failure.[85][86] Indeed, pro-Chávez demonstrations that took place outside of San Carlos led to his being transferred to Yare prison soon after.[87] The government meanwhile began a temporary crackdown on media supportive of Chávez and the coup.[88] A further attempted coup against the government occurred in November, which was once more defeated,[70][89] although Pérez himself was impeached a year later for malfeasance and misappropriation of funds for illegal activities.[90][91]
Political rise: 1992–98
Whilst Chávez and the other senior members of the MBR-200 were in prison, his relationship with Herma Marksman broke up in July 1993.[92] She would subsequently become a critic of Chávez.[93] In 1994, Rafael Caldera (1916–2009) of the centrist National Convergence Party was elected to the presidency, and soon after taking power, freed Chávez and the other imprisoned MBR-200 members as per his pre-election pledge. Caldera had however imposed upon them the condition that they would not return to the military, where they could potentially organise another coup.[94][95] After being mobbed by adoring crowds following his release, Chávez went on a 100-day tour of the country, promoting his Bolivarian cause of social revolution.[96] Now living off a small military pension as well as the donations of his supporters, he continued to financially support his three children and their mother despite divorcing Nancy Colmenares around this period. On his tours around the country, he would meet Marisabel Rodríguez, who would give birth to their daughter shortly before becoming his second wife in 1997.[97][98]
Travelling around Latin America in search of foreign support for his Bolivarian movement, he visited Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, and finally Cuba, where the Communist leader Fidel Castro(1926–) arranged to meet him. After spending several days in one another’s company, Chávez and Castro became friends with the former describing the Cuban leader as being like a father to him.[99] Returning to Venezuela, Chávez failed to gain mainstream media attention for his political cause. Instead, he gained publicity from small, local-based newspapers and media outlets.[100]As a part of his condemnation of the ruling class, Chávez became critical of President Caldera, whose neoliberal economic policies had caused inflation and who had both suspended constitutional guarantees and arrested a number of Chávez’s supporters.[101] According to the United Nations, by 1997 the per capita income for Venezuelan citizens had fallen to US$ 2,858 from US$ 5,192 in 1990, whilst poverty levels had increased by 17.65% since 1980, and homicide and other crime rates had more than doubled since 1986, particularly in Caracas.[102] Coupled with this drop in the standard of living, widespread dissatisfaction with the representative democratic system in Venezuela had “led to gaps emerging between rulers and ruled which favoured the emergence of a populist leader”.[103]
A debate soon developed in the Bolivarian movement as to whether it should try to take power in elections or whether it should instead continue to believe that military action was the only effective way of bringing about political change. Chávez was a keen proponent of the latter view, believing that the oligarchy would never allow him and his supporters to win an election,[104] whilstFrancisco Arias Cárdenas instead insisted that they take part in the representative democratic process. Cárdenas himself proved his point when, after joining the Radical Cause socialist party, he won the December 1995 election to become governor of the oil-rich Zulia State.[105] Subsequently changing his opinion on the issue, Chávez and his supporters in the Bolivarian movement decided to found their own political party, the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR—Movimiento Quinta República) in July 1997 in order to support Chávez’s candidature in the Venezuelan presidential election, 1998.[74][106][107][108]
The election of a leftist president in Venezuela in 1998 foreshadowed what would, in the following seven years, become a wave of successes for left-leaning presidential candidates in Latin America… Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva in Brazil in October 2002, then Lucio Gutiérrez in Ecuador in January 2003, Néstor Kirchner in Argentina in May 2003, Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay in October 2004, Evo Morales in Bolivia in December 2005,Rafael Correa in Ecuador in November 2006, and then Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, also in November 2006. While some of these moderated [towards the centre or centre-right] significantly shortly after taking office, such as Gutiérrez and da Silva, they represent a wave of left-of-center leaders whose election came as a bit of a surprise given the… disorientation within the left around the world.
Gregory Wilpert, German-American political analyst (2007).[109]
1998 election
At the start of the election run-up, most polls gave Irene Sáez, then-mayor of Caracas’ richest district, Chacao, the lead. Although an independent candidate, she had the backing of one of Venezuela’s two primary political parties, Copei.[110] In opposition to her right-wing and pro-establishment views, Chávez and his followers described their aim as “laying the foundations of a new republic” to replace the existing one, which they cast as “party-dominated”; the current constitution, they argued, was no more than the “legal-political embodiment of puntofijismo“, the country’s traditional two-party patronage system.[111] This revolutionary rhetoric gained Chávez and the MVR support from a number of other leftist parties, including thePatria Para Todos (Motherland for All), the Partido Comunist Venezolano (Venezeuelan Communist Party) and the Movimiento al Socialismo(Movement for Socialism), which together fashioned a political union supporting his candidacy called the Polo Patriotic (Patriotic Pole).[108][112]
Chávez’s promises of widespread social and economic reforms won the trust and favor of a primarily poor and working class following. By May 1998, Chávez’s support had risen to 30% in polls, and by August he was registering 39%.[113] Much of his support came from his ‘strong man’ populist image and charismatic appeal.[114] This rise in popularity worried Chávez’s opponents, with the oligarchy-owned mainstream media proceeding to attack him with a series of allegations, which included the claim – which he dismissed as ridiculous – that he was a cannibal who ate children.[115] With his support increasing, and Sáez’s decreasing, both the main two political parties, Copei and Democratic Action, put their support behind Henrique Salas Römer, a Yale University-educated economist who representated the Project Venezuela party.[116]
Chávez won the election with 56.20% of the vote. Salas Römer came second, with 39.97%, whilst the other candidates, including Irene Sáez and Alfaro Ucero, gained only tiny proportions of the vote.[91][117] Academic analysis of the election showed that Chávez’s support had come primarily from the country’s poor and the “disenchanted middle class”, whose standard of living had decreased rapidly in the previous decade,[118] although at the same time much of the middle and upper class vote had instead gone to Salas Römer.[119] Following the announcement of his victory, Chávez gave a speech in which he declared that “The resurrection of Venezuela has begun, and nothing and no one can stop it.”[117]
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