A crash course in changing the world.
Another of my social innovation heroes: Commander Hugo Chavez
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías is the President of Venezuela. As the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution, Chávez promotes a political doctrine of participatory democracy, socialism and Latin American and Caribbean cooperation. He is also a critic of neoliberalism, globalization, and United States foreign policy.
Domestically, Chávez has maintained nationwide Bolivarian Missions,
whose goals are to combat disease, illiteracy, malnutrition, poverty,
and other social ills. Abroad, Chávez has acted against the Washington Consensus
by supporting alternative models of economic development, and has advocated
cooperation among the world's poor nations, especially those in Latin America.
His political influence in South America and his adversarial relationship with the
United States have given him a comparatively high geopolitical profile,
leading Time magazine to include him among their list of the world's
100 most influential people in 2005 and 2006.
Chávez was born on July 28, 1954 in Sabaneta, Barinas to schoolteachersHugo de los Reyes Chavez and Elena Frias de Chavez. The Chávez family
is of mixed Amerindian, Afro-Venezuelan, and Spanish descent. Chávez
was born in a mud hut near Sabaneta. Due to the Chávez family's
impoverished conditions, Hugo Chávez was sent to Sabaneta with his older
brother Adán to live with his paternal grandmother, Rosa Inés Chávez,
where he pursued hobbies such as painting, singing, and baseball while
attending elementary school at the Julián Pino School. He was later forced
to relocate to the town of Barinas to attend high school at the
Daniel Florencio O'Leary School.
At age seventeen, Chávez enrolled at the Venezuelan Academy of Military
Sciences. After graduating in 1975 as a sub-lieutenant with a degree in
Military Arts and Science, Chávez entered military service for several months.
He was then allowed to pursue graduate studies in political science at the
Simon Bolivar University. Over the course of his college years, Chávez and
fellow students developed a left wing nationalist doctrine that they termed
"Bolivarianism" inspired by the Pan-American philosophy of 19th century
Venezuelan revolutionary Simon Bolivar, the influence of former Peruvian
President Juan Velasco and the thought of various socialist and communist
leaders including Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky.
Chávez engaged in sporting events and cultural activities during these
years as well. He played both baseball and softball with the Criollitos
de Venezuela, progressing with them to the Venezuelan National Baseball
Championships in 1969. Chávez also wrote numerous poems, stories and
theatrical pieces. Upon completing his studies, Chávez initially entered
active-duty military service as a member of a counter-insurgency battalion
stationed in Barinas.
Chavez's military carrer lasted 17 years, during which time he held
a variety of posts including command and staff positions, eventually
rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Chávez also held a series
of teaching and staffing positions at the Academy of Military Sciences,
where he was first acknowledged by his peers for his fiery lecturing style
and radical critique of Venezuelan government and society.