1954 Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias is born to impoverished teacher parents near Sabaneta, a small town in south-western Venezuela. He is the second of six surviving children, all boys.

1971 A local historian, Jose Esteban Ruiz Guevara, talks to Chavez about history and politics. At the age of 16, Chavez wins a place at Venezuela’s military academy. He graduates five years later with a reputation as an unruly student.

1976 Chavez joins the Venezuelan army, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. However, in time he begins to feel contempt for the military, seeing it as an instrument of a corrupt government.

1992 Chavez and other disillusioned officers begin to plot against the government. The authorities are alerted and the renegades are either killed or jailed.

1998 Despite the failed coup, ordinary Venezuelans admire the pluckiness of Chavez. Released from jail, he casts himself as a leftist firebrand, founding the Movement of the Fifth Republic. Chavez wins 56 per cent of the vote in the election and becomes president.

1999 With approval ratings touching 80 per cent, “El Comandante”, as he has come to be known, sets about implementing his social revolution by redistributing the country’s wealth. He forges links with his hero Fidel Castro in Cuba, and visits the US, meeting Kofi Annan at the UN and throwing the first pitch at a New York Mets game. Back home his party begins to frame a new constitution to strengthen his powers.

2000 A presidential election is held under the new constitution, which gives Chavez a six-year term, despite some unease about his reputed autocratic leadership.

2002 Opposition grows over his radical programme, leading a million people to take to the streets. The protesters clash with the military, which sparks a chain of events including the arrest of Chavez by his own soldiers. The military then appoints an interim president, Pedro Carmona, but within days sacks him, opting instead to swear in Chavez’s vice-president, Diosdado Cabello, who in turn instructs soldiers loyal to Chavez to release him. After a two-day coup, Chavez is back in the presidential palace.

2004 Chavez lavishes funds on social programmes, such as literacy and healthcare, thanks to the money flowing from nationalised oil companies. The populist measures are welcomed by Chavez supporters (chavistas) and help him survive a national referendum called by the opposition, who say he is not fit for office.

2006 Chavez triumphs in the polls again, winning a third presidential term, this time with 63 per cent of the vote. His reputation as a champion of the anti-US imperialism movement sees him welcomed abroad.

2009 Chavez is able to stand for president indefinitely, instead of being limited to two terms. Critics accuse him of muzzling the press as well as his opponents to get the law passed.

2011 Chavez reveals he is being treated for cancer and later undergoes an operation in Cuba, which aides say went well.

June 2012 Chavez delights his supporters by dancing on stage as he announces his bid for another presidential term.

October 2012 Chavez wins fourth term in office, defeating rival Henrique Capriles with more than 54 per cent of the vote.

5 March 2013 After three months without being seen in public, vice-president Nicolas Maduro announced that Chavez had died in a military hospital in Caracas.