Cancer-hit Hugo Chavez dies, Venezuela mourns
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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died on Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer, ending 14 years of tumultuous rule that made the socialist leader a hero for the poor but a hate figure to his opponents.
The flamboyant 58-year-old 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.
"We have just received the most tragic and awful information. At 4.25 p.m. (2055 GMT) today March the 5th, President Hugo Chavez Frias died," Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced in a televised address, his voice choking.
"It's a moment of deep pain," he said in the address, in which he appeared with senior ministers.
Chavez easily won a new six-year term at an election in October and his death will devastate millions of supporters who adored his charismatic style, anti-US rhetoric and oil-financed policies that brought subsidized food and free health clinics to long-neglected slums.
Detractors, however, saw his one-man style, gleeful nationalizations and often harsh treatment of opponents as traits of an egotistical dictator whose misplaced statist economics wasted a historic bonanza of oil revenues.
Chavez'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.
VICE PRESIDENT MADURO FAVORITE TO WIN ELECTION
The vote should be held within 30 days and will likely pit Maduro against Henrique Capriles, the centrist opposition leader and state governor who lost to Chavez in the October election.
One recent opinion poll gave Maduro a strong lead.
Maduro is Chavez's preferred successor, enjoys support among many of the working class and could benefit from an inevitable surge of emotion in the coming days.
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