By 2005, Chavez was espousing a new, vaguely defined ‘‘21st-century socialism.’’ Yet the agenda didn’t involve a sudden overhaul to the country’s economic order, and some businesspeople continued to prosper. Those with lucrative ties to the government came to be known as the ‘‘Bolivarian bourgeoisie.’’
After easily winning re-election in 2006, Chavez began calling for a ‘‘multi-polar world’’ free of U.S. domination, part of an expanded international agenda. He boosted oil shipments to China, set up joint factories with Iran to produce tractors and cars, and sealed arms deals with Russia for assault rifles, helicopters and fighter jets. He focused on building alliances throughout Latin America and injected new energy into the region’s left. Allies were elected in Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and other countries.
Chavez also cemented relationships with island countries in the Caribbean by selling them oil on preferential terms while severing ties with Israel, supporting the Palestinian cause and backing Iran’s right to a nuclear energy program.
All the while, Chavez emphasized that it was necessary to prepare for any potential conflict with the ‘‘empire,’’ his term for the United States.
He told the AP in 2007 that he loved the movie ‘‘Gladiator.’’
‘‘It’s confronting the empire, and confronting evil. ... And you end up relating to that gladiator,’’ Chavez said as he drove across Venezuela’s southern plains.
He said he felt a deep connection to those plains where he grew up, and that when died he hoped to be buried in the savanna.
‘‘A man from the plains, from these great open spaces ... tends to be a nomad, tends not to see barriers. What you see is the horizon,’’ Chavez said.
Running a revolution ultimately left little time for a personal life. His second marriage, to journalist Marisabel Rodriguez, deteriorated in the early years of his presidency, and they divorced in 2004. In addition to their one daughter, Rosines, Chavez had three children from his first marriage, which ended before he ran for office. His daughters Maria and Rosa often appeared at his side at official events and during his trips. He had one son, Hugo Rafael Chavez.
After he was diagnosed with cancer in June 2011, he acknowledged that he had recklessly neglected his health. He had taken to staying up late and drinking as many as 40 cups of coffee a day. He regularly summoned his Cabinet ministers to the presidential palace late at night.
Even as he appeared with head shaved while undergoing chemotherapy, he never revealed the exact location of tumors that were removed from his pelvic region, or the exact type of cancer.
Chavez exerted himself for one final election campaign in 2012 after saying tests showed he was cancer-free, and defeated younger challenger Henrique Capriles. With another six-year term in hand, he promised to keep pressing for revolutionary changes.
But two months later, he went to Cuba for a fourth cancer-related surgery, blowing a kiss to his country as he boarded the plane.
After a 10-week absence, the government announced that Chavez had returned to Venezuela and was being treated at a military hospital in Caracas. He was never seen again in public.
On Tuesday, Cuban folk singer Silvio Rodriguez posted photos on his blog of a past encounter with Chavez, the Venezuelan leader singing along as he strummed a guitar.
‘‘Goodbye forever, comandante,’’ Rodriguez wrote.