Hugo Chavez dies: Longtime Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez died on Tuesday after battling cancer over the past several months, the country’s vice president confirmed.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the leftist leader of Venezuela who dominated the country’s political landscape for the past decade, has died after a battle with cancer. He was 58.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro confirmed the death of Chavez, who took power in 1999, according to El Universal newspaper. Chavez went to a hospital in Cuba in December and has not been seen publicly since, undergoing months of treatments. He was flown back to Venezuela last month.
“After participating in the meeting of the council of ministers, we came here to the military hospital to follow the sequence of our comandante president's health,” said Maduro in a statement obtained by the BBC.
“We were receiving information and we were accompanying his daughters, his brother, his family members and we received the hardest and the most tragic of news,” he said, adding that the president died at 4:25 p.m. on Tuesday.
He also announced that Venezuela expelled two U.S. diplomats out of the country for alleged spying.
Chavez railed heavily against United States influence over Latin America, bolstering his political standing by having confrontations with Washington and opponents at home. His political leanings and boisterous nature polarized Venezuelans.
Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, told USA Today that while Chavez addressed some of the public grievances of injustice and inequality in Venezuela, he “will be remembered as a leader who squandered a rare opportunity to transform his country in a positive way.” Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves in the world.
With Chavez’s death, the Venezuelan constitution stipulates that the country should carry out a new election within 30 days.
The election will most likely see opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who campaigned against Chavez in last year’s polls, against Maduro.
Media reports said that throngs of supporters congregated in Caracas, the capital, to grieve over Chavez’s death.
"Chavez is Venezuela, that's the truth,” 50-year-old Gloria Torres told USA Today.
However, he had his fair share of critics, with some accusing his government of censorship and a lack of transparency. Some also contended that crime increased dramatically under his rule, with Caracas being listed as a city with one of the highest murder rates in the world.
"Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan state media infrastructure unabashedly (used) state resources as part of a re-election campaign," said Roberto Velasquez, the head of the Caracas-based Citizen Monitoring NGO.
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