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March 7, 2013

Venezuelans Mark the Death of President Hugo Chavez

Watch Venezuelans Say Goodbye to Hugo Chavez on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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Vice President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela led thousands of mourners in the streets of Caracas as a military honor guard carried the body of late Venezuelan president Hugo to the capital’s military academy where he will lie in state. Chavez passed away March 5 at age 58 after a long battle with cancer thought to have begun in 2011. His illness prevented him from returning from Cuba, where he was receiving treatment, to Venezuela this January for his presidential inauguration.

Chavez was born in 1954 to impoverished parents in western Venezuela. He was raised by his grandmother and joined the army at age 16 where he climbed the ranks to lieutenant colonel. In 1992, he led a failed coup that propelled him into the national spotlight. In 1998, Chavez ran a successful presidential campaign on a platform of social and economic equality. Venezuela is the world’s second largest oil producer, and during his presidency Chavez nationalized the country’s oil and used the profits to help build a welfare state.

Though the US is the world’s top consumer of Venezuelan oil, Washington has had tense relations with Chavez’s leadership because of his relationship with former Cuban president Fidel Castro and his criticism of American leadership.

As mandated in the Venezuelan constitution, the country must call for elections for a new president in the next 30 days. These elections will likely feature former governor Henrique Capriles running against Vice President Nicholas Maduro. In the meantime, government officials are debating who should run the country before a new president is elected.


“I swear in front of my people on this moribund constitution that I will comply and boost the democratic transformations necessary, so that the new republic will have a Magna Carta adequate to the new times. I swear it,” – President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela.

Warm up questions

1. Where is Venezuela? What do you know about it?

2. Who is Hugo Chavez?

3. What does it mean to nationalize an industry?

4. What is America’s relationship with Cuba?

Discussion questions

1. Did you find anything surprising about this video? If so, what?

2. Do you think Chavez’s death will change relations between the US and Venezuela? Why or why not?

3. Do you think leaders with serious illnesses should run for reelection? Why or why not?

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