Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dies
The Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has died at the age of 58.
After 14 years in office, Mr. Chavez lost his battle with cancer. The illness prevented him from taking the oath of office after he was re-elected for a fourth term in October.
Mr. Chavez was a controversial figure and self-proclaimed revolutionary who was critical of the US and inspired a left wing movement across Latin America.
Crowds of mourners gathered outside the Caracas hospital in the capital where he led his final battle for life. Supporters chanted “We are all Chavez”, “Chavez lives”.
Following his death, Vice-President Nicolas Maduro will assume the presidency until an election is held within 30 days.
In Tuesday’s televised address, a tearful Mr Maduro said the president had passed away “after battling a tough illness for nearly two years”.
“We have received the toughest and tragic information that… Comandante President Hugo Chavez died today at 16:25 (20:55 GMT),” he added.
Mr Maduro called on the nation to close ranks after its leader’s demise.
“Let there be no weakness, no violence. Let there be no hate. In our hearts there should only be one sentiment: Love.”
Hugo Chavez, a former paratrooper, burst onto Venezuela’s national stage in 1992 when he led a failed military coup.
After two years in prison he returned to politics and was swept to power in a 1998 election.
He won enduring support among the poor and repeated election victories by using Venezuela’s oil wealth to pursue socialist policies.
But his opponents accused him of mishandling the economy and taking the country towards dictatorship.
The vice-president spoke soon after Mr Chavez’s death of a plot against Venezuela. He said had no doubt that the president’s fight with cancer, first diagnosed in 2011, had been induced by foul play by Venezuela’s enemies – the US promptly rejected the accusations as “absurd”.
A statement by the military issued after Mr Chavez’s death said it would protect the sovereignty, integrity and security of the country. It would remain loyal to the vice-president and to parliament, it added, urging people to remain calm.
Seven days of national mourning have been declared and his body will lie in state until a funeral on Friday.