Venezuela's Hugo Chavez dies aged 58

  • Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has died at the age of 58.

    Chavez had been seriously ill with cancer since June 2011, undergoing several surgical procedures in Cuba. He had not been seen in public for several months.

    Vice-President Nicolas Maduro made the announcement on Tuesday evening.

    Earlier in the day, he had revealed that Chavez was suffereing from a new, severe respiratory infection and had entered "his most difficult hours".

    "We have received the toughest and tragic information that... Comandante President Hugo Chavez died today at 4:25 pm," said Maduro in Tuesday’s nationally televised address.

    Holding back tears, Maduro described a plot against Venezuela, saying he had no doubt that Chavez's cancer had been brought on by foul play by Venezuela's enemies. The United States swiftly dismissed the accusations as "absurd".

    He added that a scientific commission could one day look into whether Chavez's illness was induced by what he labeled an enemy attack.

    Under the constitution, the head of Venezuela's Congress, Diosdado Cabello, will assume the interim presidency before an election is held.

    Chavez was first elected president in 1998 and had most recently won another six-year term in October 2012.

    The Supreme Court ruled that his swearing-in on January 10 could be delayed due to his illness.

    Chavez’s government is responsible for implementing several social programs such as universal education and health care.

    However, his critics say poverty and unemployment remains rife despite the nation’s oil wealth.

    Venezuela has declared seven days of mourning with Chavez’s funeral due to take place on Friday.

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