Women and romantic relationships were a constant in Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's life story. So much so that one of his closest lieutenants once told a journalist that Chávez's "fury" infected "young women, older women, single women, married women, [and] divorced women."
Many of these stories grew to be so grand that it was hard to tell truth from fiction. Here's a look at some of the more colorful versions and how they played out.
Chávez's first wife in his native Barinas, Colmenares is the mother of his three children, Rosa Virginia, María Gabriela and Hugo Rafael. Like Chávez, she grew up in humble surroundings in a town called Barinitas. It was the Venezuelan locale where Chávez's extended family came from. As a primary school teacher, Colmenares maintained an uneasy relationship with the military leader, which ended in the mid '90s, shortly after Chávez led the coup against President Carlos Andres Perez on February 4, 1992.
Marisabel Rodriguez was a local reporter from Barquisimeto, Venezuela. She met Chávez at an event in the town of Carora, Venezuela, where Chávez launched his first political campaign in 1996 to promote a political project. As she said in a book titled, "Marisabel, La Historia Te Absolverá," the moment she met Chávez, she decided to "pursue" him. At that point, she already had a son from her first marriage. A year later, Rodriguez was pregnant with the only child she would have with Chavez. Their daughter's name was Rosa Inés.
After Chávez's victory at the 1998 presidential election in Venezuela, Rodriguez was elected to the Constituent Assembly, which amended the Venezuelan Constitution in 1999. The couples' relationship deteriorated over the next few years, and the two separated in 2002. Almost immediately, Rodriguez became an "anti-Chavista." However, during the military uprising of April 2002 against Chávez, Rodriguez played a crucial role in drawing international attention to the serious threats posed to Chávez by his opponents.
Marksman was the most prominent lover Chávez had while he was married to Nancy Colmenares. The relationship lasted for a decade, from roughly 1983 to 1993. According to Marksman, a university historian, she and Chávez underwent an ideological and political transformation together. During those years, "we were preparing for the time when we would be in the government," she said in a statement. Marksman also described Chávez as a "sweet" and "nice" man.
The intimate relationship ended when Chávez was arrested after leading a coup in 1992. However, they continued to have an amicable relationship. Their friendly ties were broken in 2006 when the former lover accused Chávez of wanting to implement a "fascist dictatorship" and "totalitarian regime" in Venezuela in an interview with the Sunday Times of London.
A politician, diplomat and union-backer from Argentina's left, Castro allegedly began her relationship with Chávez in 2003, while promoting a deal with Venezuela. The two became closer in 2006 when she was appointed by then-Argentine President Nestor Kirchner to a seat as ambassador to Caracas. When reporters approached Castro to address the subject, she said, "My romance is with the revolution, we should not trivialize this two-year relationship I have had with Hugo Chávez." Castro remained in Caracas until late 2011, when she was sent to London to serve as an ambassador there.
Hernandez, the current Minister of Youth who has held numerous positions throughout the 14 years of the Chávez regime, was also the subject of intense rumors involving a furtive relationship. But alas, she said they were only rumors. Still they were so widespread that during an interview on Spanish television, Hernandez was forced to make a clarification: "I want you in the land of my parents to know that I am not Hugo Chávez's lover."
In 2010, one of the most well-known Venezuelan actresses was tied to Chávez. Rodriguez, an actress and former Miss Venezuela, became associated with the Venezuelan President when a personal letter she sent, requesting a meeting and his support for a project to support young people, became public. Rumors circulated about an impending marriage and wedding, to be attended by Fidel Castro. "The worst part was that they said there was a date set and a wedding party," she said in a later interview. "People thought it was true." In other words, there was no actual truth to it.
Elsa Gutierrez Graffe
Gutierrez, the current minister of air and water transportation, was Chávez's personal aide until 2011. Known as the "Revolutionary Barbie," Graffe has had insider knowledge of some of Chávez's most important partnerships with international leaders ranging from Gaddafi of Libya to former Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. She has dismissed the claims as urban myth.