Venezuela's Hugo Chávez dies
Venezuelan Vice-President Nicolás Maduro announced yesterday during a nation-wide transmission that President Hugo Chávez "has died at 4:25pm."
The 58-year-old socialist had undergone four operations in Cuba for a cancer that was first detected in his pelvic region in mid-2011. His last surgery was on Dec. 11 and he had not been seen in public since.
"It's a moment of deep pain," Maduro, accompanied by senior ministers, said, his voice choking.
"With the loyalty of the people, with his family, the peace and respect have to go along with this immense sorrow of this historical tragedy we live today," Maduro continued.
Chávez had arrived in Venezuela from Cuba on February 18, after being hospitalized for more than two months in La Havana, where he underwent surgery on December 11 for the fourth time to battle a cancer detected back in 2011.
"We call all our fellow-countrymen to militate peace," the Vice-President continued with tears in his eyes.
"We, comrades, civil and military, accept his project, his heritage, flags will be raised with honour and dignity," he continued.
"Long live Chávez," he emphasized as he ended his speech.
Within minutes, Chávez supporters began pouring onto the streets, weeping and chanting "Chávez lives!" and "We are Chávez!" Security forces immediately cordoned off the military hospital where Chávez had been treated.
Chávez's corpse will lie in state at a Caracas military academy until a formal funeral ceremony on Friday, and seven days of mourning will be observed, officials said.
The president's death opens the way for a new election that will test whether his socialist "revolution" can live on without his dominant personality at the helm.
Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said Chávez's "constitutional instructions" would be followed. The president had said an election should be held if he succumbed to cancer.
That vote should be held within 30 days, according to the constitution, and will likely pit Maduro against Henrique Capriles, the centrist opposition leader and state governor who lost to Chávez in the October election.