FACTBOX: Five facts about Venezuela's Hugo Chavez

Wed Nov 28, 2007 12:27pm EST

(Reuters) - Venezuela holds a referendum on Sunday on President Hugo Chavez's controversial proposal for constitutional reforms that would allow him to stay in office for as long as he keeps winning elections.

Here are five facts about Chavez:

* A former lieutenant colonel, Chavez spent much of his later military career conspiring with other leftist officials to overthrow the country's corrupt political order. He led a 1992 coup that failed but made him famous and propelled him toward the presidency.

* Chavez won power at a presidential election in 1998 and took office the following year. Opposition politicians and dissident military officers led a coup against Chavez in 2002, but supporters and loyal soldiers swept him back into power in less than two days. Chavez accuses Washington of supporting the putsch.

* Chavez has won the backing of the poor majority with massive social spending that has expanded health and education programs. He has also cultivated support by openly confronting the United States, which he describes as a decadent empire.

* Born to a poor family in Venezuela's plains, Chavez once aspired to be a painter and later dreamed of being a professional baseball player. To this day he explains politics through baseball metaphors, frequently referencing his "pig's tail" curveball.

* Chavez has a folksy Caribbean style and is famous for his long-winded speeches that often drag on into the early morning. His weekly Sunday talk show has gone on as long as eight hours.

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