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Hugo Chavez, the self-declared socialist who transformed Venezuelan politics by channeling record oil revenue to the poor, nationalizing corporations and vilifying foes as U.S. imperialist puppets, has died. He was 58.
He died today at 4:25 p.m. at a military hospital in Caracas, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on state television. On Dec. 10, 2012, Chavez arrived in Cuba to undergo his fourth cancer operation in 18 months the following day, two months after winning re-election in a campaign in which he told voters he was “totally free” of the disease. It was the last time he would be seen in public.
A former paratrooper who spent two years in jail after leading a failed 1992 coup, Chavez revolutionized and polarized Venezuelan politics. Taking inspiration from ex-Cuban President Fidel Castro, he built homes and medical clinics for the poor, nationalized more than 1,000 companies or their assets and built an anti-American alliance stretching from Iran to Nicaragua. He won re-election three times in 12 years.