REPORTER: He's one of the most compelling leaders of the 21st century. Charismatic and controversial, Venezuelans voted him president four times. Hugo Chavez burst onto the national stage as a paratrooper who led a daring coup against then president President Carlos Perez. The coup was a failure and he spent time in prison, but Chavez eventually rose to assume Venezuela's highest office in 1998. It would be a first glimpse at the resilience that would become one of his most defining characteristics. Politically, he was a socialist. In office, he nationalized major sections of the economy. And while his critics accused of him of squandering his country's oil wealth, his populist message resonated with the country's poor. Their loyalty to him would play a critical role when he was overthrown by a coup during his first term. Within 48 hours, his supporters and his former soldiers swept him back into office. He credits Cuban president Fidel Castro, a close friend and mentor with influencing his views and leadership style. Chavez's circle also included Libya's Muammar Gaddafi and Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - like Chavez, all fierce critics of the United States. At times Chavez could be contentious --- like when he addressed the United Nation's General Assembly several years ago.
HUGO CHAVEZ: Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this same place, the President of the United States-- who I call the devil-- came here speaking as the owner of the world."
REPORTER: When he announced in 2011 that he had cancer, Venezuelans held rallies and prayer services. He made several extended trips to Havana for treatment claiming on at least two occasions that he had beaten the disease. He was as always determined, perhaps even defiant.
HUGO CHAVEZ: "They're thinking that Chavez is through. Chavez is not through. What's more and what I'd better tell you, when this body really gives out, Chavez will not be through, because I am no longer Chavez. Chavez is in the streets and has become the people, and has become a national essence, more than a feeling, a national body, national soul, national weapon to keep fighting for Venezuela."
REPORTER: In his last year, Venenzuelans also saw a different, more vulnerable side of him. At one mass, he begged God for more time.
HUGO CHAVEZ: "Give me your cross, a hundred crosses-- I'll carry them, but give me life because I have things left to do for these people and this fatherland. Don't take me yet."
REPORTER: Despite his illness, Chavez barreled ahead and won his final election in October.
HUGO CHAVEZ: "I will never stop serving the Venezuelan people. Never. Until the day I die."
REPORTER: Hugo Chavez led Venezuela for 14 years. He was 58 years old.