Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela lost his battle with cancer and died after 14 years in power aged 58
The death has been announced of the charismatic but controversial Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He died early Tuesday morning Tuesday in Caracas aged 58 after a nearly two-year battle against cancer.
The country's Vice President Nicolas Maduro could not hold back his tears as he made the official announcement of Chavez's death on national television, saying that the President had died at 4:25 p.m.
His death followed repeated treatments for pelvic cancer in Cuba where his condition was first diagnosed in June 2011.
Chavez disclosed the gravity of his illness in December after months of insisting he was cancer-free.
Chavez returned home from Cuba on February 18 following his most recent surgery and remained out of sight at a military hospital in Caracas.
He had been scheduled to be sworn in for a fourth term on January 10, but the Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled he did not need to take the oath of office to remain President.
Chavez's popularity with the poor helped propel him to victory again in October balloting when he gained 55% of the vote despite rising crime. His re-election was a testament to the near-religious devotion of Venezuela's impoverished to their comandante.
Chavez won the lower classes' support by redistributing the nation's vast oil wealth through welfare programmes called missions, which set up medical clinics and schools, operated a chain of cut-rate grocery stores, and divided up nationalised farms and ranches among cooperatives of the impoverished.
Daniel Hellinger, a political science professor at Webster University in St. Louis, said the welfare programmes reduced Venezuela's poverty rate from close to 80% in the 1990s to about 20%, and wiped out illiteracy.
"To millions of poor Venezuelans excluded from meaningful participation in politics, Chavez offered hope for a new kind of democracy that would open doors of government to them,” Hellinger said.
During the more than 14 years in office, Chavez maintained his link to the poor partly through his weekly "Alo Presidente" television show, during which he performed much like a televangelist spreading the gospel of his revolution.
He was democratically elected four times, and won several nationwide referendums.
Before leaving for Cuba in December, Chavez named Maduro as his successor. However, the Vice President does not automatically serve the rest of Chavez's term. The Venezuelan Constitution requires that a new election be called within 30 days of the death or resignation of the incumbent.
The ruling party is riven with factions and Maduro's nomination is not a sure thing, with National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello seen as his chief rival.