Morales travels abroad on Venezuelan planes flown by Venezuelan pilots and staffed with Venezuelan bodyguards. Venezuelan helicopters fly him to rural areas.
"It's Chávez who is running Bolivia, " José Luis Paredes, governor of La Paz state, which includes the capital city, said in an interview. "Decisions come from Venezuela. . . . Morales executes them. Chávez is buying souls with petrodollars."
Morales' controversial effort to rewrite Bolivia's constitution comes straight from Chávez's playbook, said former President Jorge Quiroga, who lost the 2005 race to Morales and now leads Bolivia's main opposition party. The proposed changes include giving the government greater control over the economy and allowing Morales to seek reelection.
"[Chávez] is playing in about every country in Latin America, " Quiroga said in his La Paz office. "He has always seen himself as the reincarnation of Simón Bolívar" -- the Venezuelan who led the movement freeing a number of South American countries from Spanish control in the early 1800s.
Aníbal Romero, a professor of political theory at Metropolitan University in Caracas, said ordinary Venez- uelans want Chávez to focus instead on their day-to-day concerns about crime, dirty streets and the lack of food staples. But he predicted that Chávez will continue to pursue his grandiose dreams.
"He's messianic, " Romero said. "He cannot change. He cannot escape from his own shadow. He cannot stop being Chávez."
Miami Herald special correspondent Phil Gunson contributed to this report.
THE RISE OF HUGO CHAVEZ
Feb. 4, 1992 -- Chávez leads a failed military coup against elected President Carlos Andrés Pérez. He surrenders and is jailed.
March 28, 1994 -- He receives a presidential pardon.
Dec. 6, 1998 -- Chávez wins the presidency with 56 percent of the votes.
Feb. 2, 1999 -- He is sworn in as president and announces that he will push for a constitutional assembly.
April 25, 1999 -- Voters agree to dissolve the legislature and elect a constitutional assembly, which Chávez supporters control.
Dec. 15, 1999 -- A new "Bolivarian Constitution" is approved by 71 percent of voters.
July 30, 2000 -- Chávez is reelected under the new constitution.
November 2001 -- Under powers granted to him by the new legislature, Chávez issues 47 laws by decree. The move sparks protests that spread over the next months.
April 11, 2002 -- After street clashes leave at least 12 dead, military officers ask Chávez to resign, and they take him into custody.
April 14, 2002 -- He is released and returns to power amid massive demonstrations in support of his presidency.
Aug. 16, 2004 -- He wins a recall referendum with 58 percent of the votes, vows to carry on with his leftist "revolution, " and urges the United States to respect his regime.
Dec. 3, 2006 -- Chávez wins reelection, promises to speed up his "Bolivarian revolution."
May 28, 2007 -- He shuts down the opposition RCTV station, sparking widespread protests, especially by students.
June 2007 -- Chávez begins to detail proposals for radical constitutional reforms, which eventually include unlimited reelection and declaring Venezuela a socialist state.
Dec. 2, 2007 -- Voters reject the proposals by a narrow margin, dealing the president his first loss at the polls. He later promises to slow down but insists that the direction is correct.
Jan. 10 -- After an initial embarrassing failure, Chávez receives two high-profile hostages held by Colombia's FARC guerrillas for nearly six years.
Jan. 13 -- Chávez relaunches a drive for changes to allow him indefinite reelection and calls on the world to recognize the FARC as an "insurgent force, " not terrorist