Before cancer slowed him down, Chavez was known for rousing speeches peppered with religious references, songs and quotes from South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.
The then lieutenant colonel gate-crashed the political scene in 1992 when he led a failed coup against president Carlos Andres Perez.
After two years in prison, he decided to take power through democratic elections, winning in 1998 to become Venezuela's youngest president at age 44.
After reforming the constitution to increase presidential terms to six years and reducing the powers of Congress, he easily won the 2000 election.
Chavez survived a short-lived coup in 2002 that lasted just 47 hours after popular protests restored him to power. A 2004 attempt by the opposition to oust him in a recall referendum was defeated.
Elected to a second six-year term in 2006, Chavez then won a 2009 referendum that abolished the two-term limit and enabled him to run indefinitely.
Now, for the first time in 14 years, Venezuelans will not see his name on the next election's ballot.