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Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is dead
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Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is dead

  • Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
    premier.gov.ru Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

CARACAS — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has died after a long battle with cancer, the government announced. He was 58.

The death of the leading voice of the Latin American left plunged his divided, oil-rich nation into an uncertain future.

"We have received the toughest and tragic information that ... Comandante President Hugo Chavez died today at 4:25 p.m.," a tearful Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on television, directly from a Caracas military hospital where Chavez had been clinging to life hours prior.

"Long live Chavez," the officials surrounding him shouted.

Following the news, hundreds of Venezuelans gathered at the military hospital and Plaza Bolivar in a very somber mood. Many cried, saying they did not know what would come next.

Chavez had previously undergone months of treatment for cancer in Cuba, where he handed over cheap Venezuelan oil to its communist leaders, whom he was said to have admired.

The once ubiquitous symbol of Latin America's "anti-imperialist" left had disappeared from public view after being flown to Cuba on Dec. 10, an unusual absence that fueled rumors about his health.

The New York Times reported that upon hearing of his death, Chavez's supporters took to the streets to cry and mourn together.

After 14 years of running the country, Chavez's death has altered the political balance in Venezuela, the fourth-largest foreign oil supplier to the U.S..

With his death, the constitution calls for the country to "proceed to a new election" within 30 days; the vice president should take over until then.

Chavez was seen as a hero to some impoverished villagers in Venezuela, but others saw him as a dictator who ruined the country's attempt to democratize.


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has died after a long battle with cancer, the government announced. He was 58.

The death of the leading voice of the Latin American left plunged his divided, oil-rich nation into an uncertain future.

"We have received the toughest and tragic information that ... Comandante President Hugo Chavez died today at 4:25 p.m.," a tearful Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on television, directly from a Caracas military hospital where Chavez had been clinging to life hours prior.

"Long live Chavez," the officials surrounding him shouted.

Following the news, hundreds of Venezuelans gathered at the military hospital and Plaza Bolivar in a very somber mood. Many cried, saying they did not know what would come next.

Chavez had previously undergone months of treatment for cancer in Cuba, where he handed over cheap Venezuelan oil to its communist leaders, whom he was said to have admired.

The once ubiquitous symbol of Latin America's "anti-imperialist" left had disappeared from public view after being flown to Cuba on Dec. 10, an unusual absence that fueled rumors about his health.

The New York Times reported that upon hearing of his death, Chavez's supporters took to the streets to cry and mourn together.

More from GlobalPost: Hugo Chavez denies rumors of his own death

After 14 years of running the country, Chavez's death has altered the political balance in Venezuela, the fourth-largest foreign oil supplier to the U.S.

With his death, the constitution calls for the country to "proceed to a new election" within 30 days; the vice president should take over until then.

Chavez was seen as a hero to some impoverished villagers in Venezuela, but others saw him as a dictator who ruined the country's attempt to democratize.

Earlier

Venezuelan officials have been called to the presidential palace as President Hugo Chavez's condition worsens. The leader, who has been fighting cancer, is suffering from a new and "severe" respiratory infection, a government official said.

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro is holding a meeting with political and military leaders on Monday. He accused "enemies of the fatherland" both at home and abroad, of seeking to undermine democracy in Venezuela.

Maduro called the cancer that has threatened Chavez an "attack" by his enemies, calling for an investigation, according to the BBC.

Maduro said the government planned to expel a U.S. embassy official on suspicion of espionage and planning to destabilize the country. The Associated Press said Maduro identified the American as the Air Force attache, accusing him of meeting with military officers and spying on the military.

Embassy spokesman Greg Adams identified the attache as David Delmonaco, according to the AP. He was given 24 hours to leave the country.

The Pentagon has confirmed that he is en route from Venezuela back to the United States, The New York Times said.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas read a brief statement on national television late Monday in which he described the president's condition as "very delicate," Reuters reported.

"Today there is a worsening of his respiratory function, related to his depressed immune system. There is now a new, severe infection," Villegas said.

GlobalPost Correspondent Girish Gupta, who is at the hospital where Chavez is receiving care, said some supporters had arrived at the hospital, crying and praying for the president.

"It's an incredibly emotional scene," he said.

Villegas said the president had been receiving high-impact chemotherapy.

"The commander-president remains clinging to Christ and to life, conscious of the difficulties that he is facing, and complying strictly with the program designed by his medical team," Villegas said.

The 58-year-old socialist leader has not been seen in public for almost three months since undergoing an operation in Cuba, his fourth cancer surgery since the disease was detected in 2011.

Girish Gupta reported from Caracas.


This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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