On the world stage, Mr. Chavez set Venezuela on a collision course with Washington, blaming American foreign policy and U.S.-style capitalism for much of Latin America’s social ills.
PHOTOS: Venezuelans react to death of Hugo Chavez
For an international left that was yearning for a passionate and magnetic leader, Mr. Chavez was a blessing.
He criticized the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and, in a speech at the United Nations in 2006, said President George W. Bush was “the devil.” He called Tony Blair, then Britain’s prime minister, “an imperialist pawn who attempts to curry favor” with the Americans. He accused Israel of genocide, saying its treatment of the Palestinian people was akin to a “new Holocaust.”
Mr. Chavez sought out relationships with assorted rebel groups, rogues and pariah governments. He exchanged letters with Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, a Venezuelan-born terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal, who was held in a French prison. He asserted that Moammar Gaddafi’s Libya was a model of participatory democracy.
Closer to home, Mr. Chavez expressed affinity for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a potent guerrilla group fighting Colombia’s U.S.-friendly government. His closest aides built a close relationship with FARC commanders, according to Colombian officials, rebel documents seized in army raids and former rebels.
Ties to Iran and Cuba
Mr. Chavez particularly irked the United States by building a close alliance with Iran and Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba, which found in Venezuela a deep-
pocketed benefactor to replace the one the communist island lost with the breakup of the Soviet Union.
After taking office, Mr. Chavez began providing 100,000 barrels of oil a day to Castro’s government at subsidized rates; in exchange, Castro shipped thousands of Cuban workers, from intelligence agents to doctors and sports trainers, to Venezuela.
Drawing from the largest oil deposits in the world, Mr. Chavez embarked on a foreign policy in which oil, provided cheap to prospective allies, was freely used to help build an alliance to counter U.S. influence. In a grandiose plan to unite Latin America, Mr. Chavez formed an alliance he called ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America.
He bought more than $2.5 billion in Argentine bonds, created a Bank of the South to counter Washington-based multilateral lenders and pledged to build a pipeline across the continent and construct housing, highways and oil refineries.