Hugo Chávez: Nine Unlikely Facts about Venezuela’s Unusual Late Leader

You knew he was anti-capitalist, but did you know he was anti-Coke Zero?

  • Share
  • Read Later
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez throws out the ceremonial first pitch before the game between the New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays at Shea Stadium in New York
Jeff Zelevansky / AP

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez throws out the ceremonial first pitch before the game between the New York Mets and the Toronto Blue Jays at Shea Stadium in New York, June 9, 1999.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez died Mar. 5 at 58, bringing to an end the adventurous life of one of Latin America’s most confounding personalities. Here are nine of our favorite facts about El Comandante:

1. Chávez banned Coke Zero in Jun. 2009, claiming the low-calorie cola was unhealthy — but he didn’t elaborate on why. “The product should be withdrawn from circulation to preserve the health of Venezuelans,” he told a government news agency as reported by Reuters.

2. He also vowed to ban Halloween during his weekly TV and radio show, Aló Presidente, in October 2005 — calling the holiday an “imperialist terror” and part of the American tradition of “putting fear into other nations, putting fear into their own people.”

3.lifelong baseball fan, he threw the ceremonial first pitch at a Mets game at Shea Stadium during a Jun. 1999 visit to the U.S. a few months after being elected president. The staunch Socialist also rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on the same trip.

4. But he didn’t like golf. On Aló Presidente in Jul. 2009, he called the game “a bourgeois sport” and cited golf carts as proof of players’ laziness. Chávez loyalists had called for the country’s two major golf courses to be shut down, arguing that too many poor people were living in slums while the golf courses were being impeccably maintained.

5. In 2005,Chávez visited the South Bronx and, in a speech at an evangelical church, promised to send discounted oil to the neighborhood’s low-income residents. Through Citgo Petroleum, the American subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, he arranged to provide heating oil at a 40% discount. The company also pledged $3.6 million over three years to create jobs and rehabilitate the area.

6. He argued that capitalism was responsible for ending life on Mars in a 2011 speech on World Water Day.

7. While he wasn’t a fan of capitalism, he was a fan of Twitter. At the time of his death he had more than 4 million followers on the social networking service; he gave his three millionth follower a new apartment.

8. He was also a big fan of fellow Latin American lefty Fidel Castro. He joined a quartet to sing “Happy Birthday” to the Cuban revolutionary on his 75th birthday in 2001.

9. Chávez had an artistic side: in Dec. 2011, he gave the President of Argentina Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner a painting of himself with Néstor Kirchner, her late husband and the former Argentinian president. “People cannot believe that I painted the picture,” Chávez said. “I had to use color theory and everything.”

PresidencyArgentina

Presidency of Argentina
7 comments
Mickiee
Mickiee

Heard that President Obama was sending a special ambassador to the funeral:  Dennis Rodman.

patville
patville

I'm not buying that he painted that himself. Not that it's good, but ... come on.

francisk
francisk

El gran Chvez duela a quien le duele, gracias por despertarnos !

CourtneyBlack
CourtneyBlack like.author.displayName 1 Like

Another POS Marxist nut-job bites the dust. Good riddance.

FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Such a grave threat to the security of the US removed (sarcasm). I know I sleep better at night.As much as they ridicule him funny how he kept getting reelected by his own people.As far as coke goes there is more than one person on this planet who knows how unhealthy soft-drinks are; keep drinking em America

Somonelse
Somonelse like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

To a very large extent he was a righteous dude w. a few quirks.. Vaya con dios Hugo