TAMPA (Fox 13 WTVT) -- In a speech to the United Nations, he called President Bush the devil. It shocked the world and angered many Americans.
On Tuesday, Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has died at 58.
The populist leader of oil-rich Venezuela became Latin America's most vocal and controversial leader and was Washington's chief antagonist in the region.
"I'm not happy for his death, but I'm kind of happy because I think it's going to bring some change. That's what everybody wants in Venezuela – change," said Adrian Castillo of Nico's Arepas Grill on Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa.
He left Venezuela 12 years ago, opening his own food truck that specializes in arepos, a Venezuelan favorite. But his family is still there.
So is Frankie Peleggi's.
"It's about time. It's been too long for the country to suffer what they're suffering," he said. "My parents are there. My daughter's over there, my brothers and sisters. They're all suffering the consequences of what he's done."
Like many Venezuelans in Tampa Bay, they're hopeful that will change, but they're also concerned.
"I think everyone's worried and scared at the moment, wondering what's going to happen right now and in the future or in 30 days," Patricia Perez said.
Her mother lives in Venezuela and says crime is rampant. Under Chavez's control, the murder rate rose to one of the highest in the world. Inflation soared and jobs disappeared.
"It's unsafe to be out in the street, especially at night time. It's really not safe," Perez said.
"People don't want to go to Venezuela because they're afraid that they're going to get robbed. They're going to get stabbed. They're going to get shot because it's that bad," Peleggi said.
Word of Chavez's death had phones lines jammed. But their texts got through along with the sense that many family members back home are relieved.
"I'm happy that this is over and we can step forward and try to change what he did and make it better," Peleggi said.