This simple fact, perhaps more than anything else, lies at the heart of how the late Venezuelan president was perceived by his supporters, and indeed detractors, at home and abroad.
To the dispossessed and downtrodden he was a champion, to his critics and opponents a clownish authoritarian who supped with the devil be it Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.
This criticism of Mr Chavez is nothing less than crass hypocrisy of course. After all, who are we in the West to get judgmental when it comes to doing deals with dictators?
Throughout his career, Mr Chavez was also personally and politically close to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, with whom he collaborated in promoting leftist governments and Latin American solidarity against their shared ideological foe, the United States.
But if Mr Chavez's critics accused him of supping with the devil, there was never any doubt in the Venezuelan's own mind who he saw cast in that role when at the 2006 UN General Assembly session he called George W Bush "the devil himself". On that issue certainly – even if a tad exuberant – Mr Chavez perhaps had a point.
With Mr Chavez's passing, his Bolivarian revolution – named after Simon Bolivar, South America's Venezuelan-born independence hero – now faces its greatest test even if there is little doubt chavismo will outlive its founder in his home country.
Though the details of how Venezuela's political succession will take place are still unclear, Vice-President Nicolas Maduro will almost certainly replace Mr Chavez.
What is undeniable, however, is that whoever becomes Venezuela's next president simply cannot afford to abandon the redistribution and community-oriented policies Mr Chavez pioneered. Chavez supporters might justifiably ask why should they?
That Venezuela faces serious challenges that affect all its citizens is a given. Crime runs rampant, as does inflation and any chavista successor will undoubtedly have their work cut out. This in turn brings us to the bigger question of what Mr Chavez's loss means for the leftist leadership of Latin America as a whole?
While his domestic political legacy will likely last for many decades – not least his impressive policies that saw big reductions in poverty – his death will also likely mark the beginning of the end of Venezuela's political clout in Latin America.
For years, Mr Chavez's influence was felt throughout the region from small Caribbean islands to impoverished Nicaragua in Central America, and larger, emerging energy economies such as Ecuador and Bolivia and even South America's heavyweights Brazil and Argentina, where he found favour with left-leaning governments.
His willingness to put Venezuela's oil money where his mouth was will be difficult to replace. Mr Chavez's ability to gain political friends by offering an attractive and concessionary oil-financing scheme known as Petrocaribe was a powerful incentive.
Without the ideological presence of this singularly charismatic leader, Venezuela's influence is likely to wane and the pure financial weight of the Brazilian juggernaut could fill the gap in the region's diplomatic realignment.
Some veteran Latin America watchers have pointed out how difficult it will be for the likes of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, or Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega, to pick up the mantle left by Mr Chavez's absence.
And while allies such as Bolivian President Evo Morales have vowed to carry on Mr Chavez's dream of "Bolivarian" unity, many analysts are less than convinced.
They stress the considerable challenges faced in sustaining the same level of support and energy for the anti-American, Bolivarian relationships Mr Chávez helped create.
For many of a leftist political persuasion Mr Chavez was the political heir of Cuba's guerrilla leader-turned-president Fidel Castro. But as some Latin American commentators including renowned Argentine journalist, Andres Oppenheimer, have suggested, Mr Chavez will probably go down in history as a political phenomenon closer to that of late Argentine strongman Juan D Peron.
Like Peron, he was a military officer and coup plotter who first flirted with fascism, later turned to the left, and once in power gave millions to the poor thanks to a boom in world commodity prices.
In that latter capacity at least he was very different from a previous generation of Venezuelan presidents for whom the country's poverty-stricken masses barely registered on their political radar.
Not everyone in Latin America's left-leaning community has been convinced by Mr Chavez's socialist credentials. Famed Mexican novelist and essayist Carlos Fuentes once dubbed Mr Chavez a "tropical Mussolini" and others too have acknowledged the autocratic rule of this undeniably narcissistic leader.
All of this, though, will not deter hundreds of thousands of "chavistas" from turning out for the late president's funeral today. In the poorest communities of Caracas and elsewhere, the Hugo Chavez legacy will resonate for some time.
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