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President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has played baseball with Cuba's Fidel Castro and visited Iraq's Saddam Hussein. He also was against the U.S. attack on Afghanistan.
He was an army officer in 1992 when he tried and failed to seize power by coup. He won the 1998 election by a landslide.
Hours after his inauguration, Chavez issued a presidential decree calling for a national vote on forming a constituent assembly to write a new constitution — with the president setting the rules for how the assembly delegates would be elected.
Two days later, he welcomed fellow coup plotters from his 1992 rebellion back into the ranks of the armed forces, describing them as "heroes." He also promised to get the military more involved in society, building roads, tilling farms and providing medical care.
Chavez ordered the Venezuelan foreign ministry to investigate allegations that the Venezuelan-born Carlos, whose real name is Ilyich Ramirez, (one of the world's most notorious 'terrorists') was illegally seized when French agents bundled him out of Sudan in 1994 after 19 years on the run.
Chavez hosted an OPEC summit in 2000 and he used the occasion to defend high oil prices, calling them "fair" in light of what oil consuming nations charge for the goods they produce.
"It would be great if the developed countries could start lowering the prices of the things they sell us, like computers, medicines, cars and foreign debt interest rates," he said.
Before Chavez came to power, Venezuela used to defy OPEC's pricing structure and sold cheap oil to the United States. Chavez changed that policy.
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