Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez Succumbs to Cancer
Venezuela's long-ruling President Hugo Chavez has lost his battle with cancer and has passed away at the age of 58.
Tearful Foreign Minister Elias Jose Jaua Milano, announced the death in a televised address, and declared seven days of mourning.
A procession would carry Chavez's body to the Military Academy in Caracas Wednesday, where it would lie in state until his funeral on Friday.
The official funeral attended by foreign Heads of State would take place at 10:00 am local time Friday. Chavez's supporters are to wear clothes in the three colors of the Venezuelan flag in his honor.
Chavez, who was President of Venezuela for 14 years, had been seriously ill with cancer for many months and underwent several operations in Cuba. He had not been seen in public lately.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro, designated by Chavez, would assume the presidency until an election is called within 30 days.
Cancer also prevented Chavez from taking the oath of office after he was reelected for a third term in October.
On his part, Maduro called on the nation to unite after the demise of their leader.
"Let there be no weakness, no violence. Let there be no hate. In our hearts there should only be one sentiment: Love," he said as cited by BBC.
However, Maduro revealed that the government had deployed the armed forces and police nationwide "to accompany and protect our people and guarantee the peace."
The Vice President also spoke of a plot against Venezuela, saying he had no doubt that Chavez's cancer, first diagnosed in 2011, had been induced by foul play by Venezuela's enemies - the US promptly rejected the accusations as "absurd".
Maduro explained a scientific commission could one day investigate whether the illness was brought about by what he called an enemy attack. BBC further quotes him informing that two US diplomats had been expelled from the country for spying on Venezuela's military.
A statement by the military declared it would protect the sovereignty, integrity and security of the country and would remain loyal to Maduro and to the Parliament.
Hundreds of Chavez supporters appeared in front of the hospital where he died, shouting: "We are all Chavez!" and "Chavez lives!"
The US described the death as a "challenging time," reaffirming what it described as its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with Caracas.
Russia's permanent representative to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, quoted by BBC, said Chavez had been a great politician, for his country, for Latin America and the world.
The government of Cuba declared three days of national mourning.
One of the most visible, vocal and controversial leaders in Latin America, Hugo Chavez, won the presidency in 1998 and had most recently won another six-year presidential term in October 2012.
His government has implemented a number of "missions" or social programs, including education and health services for all. Poverty and unemployment, however, remained widespread, despite the country's oil wealth.
Chavez' foreign policy has been marked by strong opposition to the US.
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