|Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela|
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has died, this according to Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro flanked by leading Venezuelan political and military leaders. Chavez has been one of the most visible, vocal and controversial leaders in Latin America. He won the presidency in 1998 and had most recently won another six-year presidential term in October 2012.
Maduro, who was fighting back tears during the announcement said Chavez died today at 4:25 PM. Chavez had been in Cuba for months, where he was receiving treatment for a mystery illness that turned out to be cancer. Chavez had not appeared in public since he returned to Venezuela last month after cancer treatment in Cuba.
Earlier, he said the 58-year-old Venezuelan leader had a new, severe respiratory infection and had entered "his most difficult hours". He also announced the government had expelled two US diplomats from the country for spying on Venezuela's military.
Mr Maduro said Mr Chavez had died "after battling a tough illness for nearly two years". He said he had no doubt that Mr Chavez's cancer, first diagnosed in 2011, had been induced by foul play by Venezuela's enemies. Venezuelan radio reported that military had been deployed across the country.
Under the constitution, the head of Venezuela's Congress, Diosdado Cabello, will assume the interim presidency before an election is held.