Following the adoption of a new constitution in 1999, Chávez focused on enacting social reforms as part of the Bolivarian Revolution. Using record-high oil revenues of the 2000s, his government nationalized key industries, created participatory democratic Communal Councils and implemented social programs known as the Bolivarian missions to expand access to food, housing, healthcare and education. Venezuela received high oil profits in the mid-2000s, resulting in temporary improvements in areas such as poverty, literacy, income equality and quality of life occurring primarily between 2003 and 2007, though these gains started to reverse after 2012 and it has been argued that government policies did not address structural inequalities. Overall, Chávez's populist policies eventually led to a severe socioeconomic crisis in Venezuela.
Hugo was born the second of seven children. Hugo described his childhood as "poor... [but] very happy", though his childhood of supposed poverty has been disputed as Chávez possibly changed the story of his background for political reasons. Attending the Julián Pino Elementary School, Chávez was particularly interested in the 19th-century federalist general Ezequiel Zamora, in whose army his own great-great-grandfather had served. With no high school in their area, Hugo's parents sent Hugo and his older brother Adán to live with their grandmother Rosa, who lived in a lower middle class subsidized home provided by the government, where they attended Daniel O'Leary High School in the mid-1960s. Hugo later described his grandmother as being "a pure human being... pure love, pure kindness". She was a devout Roman Catholic, and Hugo was an altar boy at a local church. His father, despite having the salary of a teacher, helped pay for college for Chávez and his siblings.