Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has died less than two weeks after returning from a prolonged medical trip to Cuba where he received treatment for cancer. He was 58.
His Vice president, Nicolas Maduro, announced his death Tuesday evening, flanked by the Latin American country’s top political and military leaders.
Venezuelan military have said they will protect the country, and support the civilian government pending elections. Soldiers have been deployed to all parts of the country, reports say.
Under Venezuelan laws, the head of the parliament takes control of the country until elections are held in 30 days.
Mr. Maduro had earlier said the president’s condition had deteriorated to the most difficult stage with new and severe respiratory infection.
He said he, and other officials who went to the military hospital where Mr. Chavez was treated, got the “hardest and most tragic information” of the death.
Mr. Chavez, a fiery critic of the United States and the West, battled cancer for nearly two years since his first diagnosis in 2011.
His Vice president is quoted as saying he has no doubt the cancer that led to his death, was masterminded by Venezuela’s enemies.
Mr. Chavez first came to power in 1998, and won a fresh term in October 2012, but could not be sworn-in because of his sickness.
He first announced in 2012 that he had recovered from cancer after undergoing chemotherapy and other treatment between 2011 and 2012.
He announced last December that he needed more treatment, and returned to Cuba where he had received previous treatments.
Mr. Chavez had asked his supporters to back Mr. Maduro as his successor should he fail to recover.
The president was last seen in public in December. He finally returned in February.