President Hugo Chavez lost his battle with cancer Tuesday at the
age of 58. He died in a military hospital in Caracas, Vice
President Nicolas Maduro announced on national radio and
With tears in his eyes, Maduro addressed Venezuelans from the
Doctor Carlos Arvelo military hospital, where Chavez passed his
last two weeks after returning from Cuba Feb 18, Xinhua reported.
"At 4.25 p.m. (Tuesday), the commander President Hugo Chavez
deceased," Maduro said.
He called the event a "historical tragedy" and urged Venezuelans
to be vigilant for the peace of the country.
Accompanied by key members of the Executive Cabinet, Maduro
offered thanks to friends from other countries.
"In this time of sorrow, we thank you for your eternal
solidarity," he said.
He also called on the Venezuelan people of all political sections
to unite together.
"Let there be no violence or hatred, but love, peace, unity and
discipline," Maduro said.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan Defence Minister Diego Molero Bellavia said
in a statement: "The National Bolivarian Arms Force echoes the
call for unity. We are being deployed to ensure the security and
sovereignty of the Venezuelan people."
Chavez was in power for 14 years. He was re-elected to a third
six-year term in October 2012, but could not be sworn in as
scheduled Jan 10 due to his serious health problems.
After seeking medical treatment for 70 days in Cuba, he returned
home Feb 18. Since then, he was in the Caracas military hospital.
Maduro's announcement came hours after an emergency government
meeting following reports that the health of Venezuela's
charismatic socialist leader was failing, RIA Novosti reported.
Molero appealed for "unity, tranquility and understanding" among
Venezuelans and vowed that the military will remain loyal to the
constitution in the wake of Chavez's death.
Chavez had four operations for cancer and four courses of
chemotherapy in Cuba and Venezuela within a year. His fourth
operation, to remove cancerous tissue, took place in Cuba Dec 11,
Under the constitution, the head of Venezuela's Congress, Diosdado
Cabello, will assume the interim presidency before new election is
Maduro earlier said he had no doubt that "the historical enemies
of the country sought for a weak spot to harm the health" of
He insisted that in due time, a scientific commission will be
formed to certify whether the president was attacked with the
illness he has been suffering for almost two years.
Venezuela Tuesday expelled two US diplomats on alleged espionage
Following the announcement of Chavez's death, US President Barack
Obama issued a brief statement reaffirming US support "for the
Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive
relationship with the Venezuelan government".
"As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the US remains
committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule
of law, and respect for human rights," the statement said.
BBC said that in Argentina, President Cristina Fernandez de
Kirchner suspended all activities after Chavez's death was
Both she and her late husband, Nestor Kirchner, were close friends
of the firebrand Venezuelan leader.
In Peru, Congress held a minute of silence in his honour.
Bolivia's President Evo Morales said he was leaving immediately
The governments of Chile and Ecuador also released official notes
of condolence to Venezuela while Ecuador said it felt the loss as
its own, and hoped its neighbours could carry on Chavez's
British Foreign Minister William Hague said he was "saddened" to
learn of the death, saying Chavez had left a "lasting impression"
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon offered his "deepest condolences
to the families and people and the government of Venezuela" and
noted Chavez's contributions to his country's development.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled her trip to
"This death should fill all Latin and Central Americans with
sadness," she said. "Hugo Chavez was without doubt a leader
committed to his country and to the development of the people of
She added that on many occasions "the Brazilian government did not
agree totally with Chavez" but always recognised him "as a great
leader" and regarded him as "a friend of Brazil and the Brazilian
At the UN, Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin called the Venezuelan
leader's death "a tragedy".
"He was a great politician for his country, Latin America and the
world," he said.