March 5, 2014 marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Hugo Chavez, former President of Venezuela and one of the most audacious and controversial figures in Latin America over the past several decades.
Chavez died one year ago of cancer at the age of 58 after serving as President of Venezuela for 14 years.
Chavez’s leftist politics and socialist-inspired ideas led his opponents to view him as a corrupt dictator, while many of his advocates saw him as a type of modern-day Robin Hood.
His policies aimed to help the poor, who supported him through his four election victories as the middle and upper classes crippled under his rule.
Poverty in Venezuela declined significantly under Chavez’s rule, but those opposed to his socialist ideals point out the fact that the poverty level of many other Latin American countries also decreased while following different economic models than that of Venezuela.
As with most politicians that take extreme stances on either side of the political spectrum, Chavez ruffled feathers of politicians worldwide, particularly those of the United States. Between trying to take control of the state-run oil company, selling oil to Cuba, and avoiding taking a stance on drug trafficking into Columbia, Chavez pitted Venezuela against the U.S.
In fact, during his years as President, Chavez consistently referred to the U.S. as a bully or “an assassin.” In 2011, he even suggested that the U.S. government somehow instilled cancer in several leftist Latin American heads of state.
Venezuela after Chavez
While opinions of this Venezuelan president drastically varied (and still do), his country has faced severe turmoil since his death.
Student protests have crowded the streets of Caracas neighborhoods over the past few weeks, and these riots have continued over the past weekend despite the national holiday leading up to Carnaval.
The anti-government demonstrations that have instigated the use of tear gas and violence from the police force may mark the beginning of the end of Venezuela’s socialist government that Chavez spent 14 years building.
President Nicolas Maduro, who was elected after Chavez’s death, has faced substantial opposition since his inauguration, yet the current protests have become such a serious problem for the government that many are predicting its collapse.
On the other hand, some believe that the powerful momentum of Chavez’s legacy will help the government quash the revolts and continue to strengthen its socialist government.
George Ciccariello-Maher, an assistant professor of political science at Drexel University, told CNN, “Maduro has a lot of support. He’s not Chavez, but he’s seen as a relatively faithful representative of what Chavez stood for.”
SEE ALSO: Hugo Chavez a saint?