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 “The product should be withdrawn from circulation to preserve the health of Venezuelans,” he told a government news agency as reported by Reuters.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. A 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.”