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Venezuelan President Chavez dies of cancer at age 58

By Frank Bajak

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 05:25 p.m. HST, Mar 05, 2013

CARACAS, Venezuela » Some in anguish, some in fear, Venezuelans raced for home today after the government announced the death of President Hugo Chavez, the firebrand socialist who led the nation for 14 years.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro's voice broke and tears ran down his face as he appeared on national television to announce that Chavez died at 4:25 p.m. local time "after battling hard against an illness over nearly two years."

He did not say what exactly killed Chavez, although the government had announced the previous night that a severe new respiratory infection had severely weakened him.

Just a few hours earlier, Maduro made a virulent speech against enemies he claimed were trying to undermine Venezuelan democracy.

But as he announced the death, Maduro called on Venezuelans to be "dignified inheritors of the giant man" Chavez was.

"Let there be no weakness, no violence. Let there be no hate. In our hearts there should only be one sentiment: Love. Love, peace and discipline."

All across downtown Caracas, shops and restaurants begin closing and Venezuelans hustled for home, some even breaking into a run.

Many had looks of anguish and incredulity on their faces.

"I feel a sorrow so big I can't speak," said Yamilina Barrios, a 39-year-old clerk who works in the Industry Ministry, her face covered in tears.

"He was the best this country had," she said, disconsolately weeping. "I adore him.

"I hope the country calms down and continues the work that he left us, continues in unity and the progress continues," Barrios said.

Among the nervous was Maria Elena Lovera, a 45-year-old housewife.

"I want to go home. People are crazy and are way too upset."

In the only immediately known incident of political violence, a group of masked, helmeted men on motorcycles, some brandishing revolvers, attacked about 40 students who had been protesting for more than a week near the Supreme Court building to demand the government give more information about Chavez's health.

The attackers, who wore no clothing identifying any political allegiance, burned the students' tents and scattered their food just minutes after the death was announced.

"They burned everything we had," said student leader Gaby Arellano. She said none of the attackers fired a shot but that she saw four with pistols.

Maduro called on Venezuelans to convene in the capital's Bolivar Square, named for the 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar, who Chavez claimed as his chief inspiration.

The vice president also called on the opposition to respect "the people's pain."

"Those who never supported the comandante Hugo Chavez, respect the pain of the people. This is the moment to think of our families, of our country."

Chavez leaves behind a socialist political movement firmly in control of the nation, but with some doubt about how a new leadership will be formed.

Chavez's illness prevented him from taking the oath of office after he was re-elected to a new term on Oct. 7 and under the constitution, National Assembly chief Diosdado Cabello apparently would take over as interim president.

But there was no sign of Cabello on the podium as Maduro announced Chavez's death.

The constitution also says that elections should be called in 30 days. Chavez had specified that his supporters should support Maduro as his successor.

The man Chavez defeated in October, the youthful Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles, would be expected to represent the opposition.

Venezuela's defense minister also appeared on television to announce that the military will remain loyal to the constitution in the wake of Chavez's death.

Admiral Diego Molero appealed for "unity, tranquility and understanding" among Venezuelans.

The announcement stunned Venezuelans, if it did not surprise them.

Earlier in the day, Maduro used a more belligerent tone as he announced the government had expelled two U.S. diplomats from the country and said "we have no doubt" that Chavez's cancer, which was first diagnosed in June 2011, was induced by "the historical enemies of our homeland."

He compared the situation to the death of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, claiming Arafat was "inoculated with an illness."

Chavez's inner circle has long claimed the United States was behind a failed 2002 attempt to overthrow him, and he has frequently played the anti-American card to stir up support. Venezuela has been without a U.S. ambassador since July 2010.

Maduro has been taking on a larger role since Chavez urged Venezuelans to choose him as president before disappearing in early December to undergo a fourth round of cancer surgery in Cuba.

He accused U.S. Embassy's Air Force attache Col. David Delmonaco of spying on Venezuela's military and seeking to involve officers in "destabilizing projects." Maduro gave Delmonaco 24 hours to leave, and U.S. officials said he had already departed the country.

Maduro said today that the government was "on the trail of other elements that figure in this entire venomous scenario and are seeking to stir up trouble."

Later today, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said a second U.S. Air Force attache was being expelled, also for alleged espionage.

"Let's remember that active participation of the United States in the fascist coup of 2002," Jaua said.

Chavez has run Venezuela for more than 14 years as a virtual one-man show, gradually placing all state institutions under his personal control. But the former army paratroop commander, who rose to fame by launching a failed 1992 coup, never groomed a successor with his same kind of force of personality.

The campaign for the upcoming election to replace him, though undeclared, has nevertheless already begun.

Maduro has frequently commandeered all broadcast channels, Chavez-style, to tout the "revolution" and vilify the opposition.

Maduro repeated government claims today that Capriles met in the United States over the weekend with right-wing U.S. conspirators and was planning to meet over the weekend with Roberta Jacobsen, assistant U.S. secretary of state for the hemisphere.

One personality on state TV also accused the Capriles family of buying a New York City apartment with stolen funds.

Capriles responded via Twitter by calling Maduro a liar.

"Lie after lie in every speech," he said.

Chavez, long famed for his marathon appearances at televised events, had neither been seen nor heard from, except for photos released in mid-February, since submitting to a fourth round of surgery in Cuba on Dec. 11 for an unspecified cancer in the pelvic area. It was first diagnosed in June 2011.

The government said Chavez returned home on Feb. 18 and has been confined to Caracas' military hospital ever since.

Maduro said last week that the president had begun receiving chemotherapy around the end of January.

Among those stunned by the announcement was 38-year-old soft drink seller Nelson Ramirez, who sympathized with the fallen president.

"This is the worst thing that could have happened to our country," he said. "Without Chavez, I don't know what will happen here. We poor people could be forgotten again."

On the other side of Venezuela's political divide was Carlos Quijada, a 38-year-old economist who said he was sad that death rather than an election defeat had written Chavez's political obituary.

"Now there is a lot of uncertainty about what is going to happen," he said.


Associated Press writers Christopher Toothaker in Caracas, Vivian Sequera in Bogota, Colombia, and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

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akuboatcaptain wrote:
the world has lost a great leader, rest in peace.
on March 5,2013 | 11:08AM
thebostitch wrote:
... you mean, rest in Hell, where he deserves to be and surely is!!!
on March 5,2013 | 11:25AM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
another fine example of an ignorant person believing only what the western media wants them to believe in. study his life objectively, you'll be surprised what you may find.
on March 5,2013 | 11:49AM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
read about john perkins, he was there.
on March 5,2013 | 11:52AM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
his book is "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" if your attention span allows it.
on March 5,2013 | 11:54AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Who was better for the world ...George Bush ...or Hugo Chavez?
on March 5,2013 | 05:04PM
hanalei395 wrote:
America's poor will miss him for the free home heating oil.
on March 5,2013 | 05:27PM
hanalei395 wrote:
Although the U.S. refused the aid offered by Chavez for Hurricane Katrina victims, it was accepted through the "back door" .
on March 5,2013 | 08:09PM
tiki886 wrote:
Yay! Now he's a good Democrat.
on March 5,2013 | 12:01PM
tiki886 wrote:
Up next. Fidel Castro!
on March 5,2013 | 12:17PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
spoken like a true imperialist.
on March 5,2013 | 01:27PM
hanalei395 wrote:
Be careful what you wish for.
on March 5,2013 | 05:08PM
Kawipoo wrote:
Move to Venezuelia since you hate the US so much. You must be one of those occupy movement wackos!
on March 5,2013 | 01:10PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
i never said i hate the u.s., why don't you move somewhere that espeouses hatred?
on March 5,2013 | 01:22PM
808warriorfan wrote:
Either you love the US of A or leave it.....no 2 ways about it
on March 5,2013 | 09:54PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
no but at least those guys on king st are trying to have their voices heard, instead of pledging their allegiance to the almighty dollar like you.
on March 5,2013 | 01:29PM
SteveToo wrote:
Try living w/o that dollar.
on March 5,2013 | 03:00PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
i can't, not in this society, but at least i don't pray to it at night.
on March 5,2013 | 03:16PM
SteveToo wrote:
Woo Hoo! One less Communist/Socialist in the world.
on March 5,2013 | 02:59PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
i never said what my politcal persuasion was, but it's apparent ignorance is yours.
on March 5,2013 | 03:06PM
lee1957 wrote:
Could you enlighten us on three of his most admired leadership qualities?
on March 5,2013 | 05:03PM
frontman wrote:
obama will lower the flag to half mast to honor his comrade.
on March 5,2013 | 05:35PM
Mana07 wrote:
on March 5,2013 | 08:17PM
Honto5 wrote:
In paragraph 6, if you substitute Chavez with Obama.......there's quite a few similarties. This is where we're heading after Obama's completion of his 2nd term and we're definitely morphed to a "Socialist" country. "Chavez (Obama) used his country's vast {oil} wealth to launch social programs that include state-run [food markets, new public housing], free health clinics and education programs. Poverty declined during Chavez's presidency amid a historic boom in oil earnings, but critics said he failed to use the windfall of hundreds of billions of dollars to develop the country's economy. Inflation soared and the homicide rate rose to among the highest in the world."
on March 5,2013 | 11:26AM
Kawipoo wrote:
I totally agree. If given a chance Obama would be a Chavez like authoritarian.
on March 5,2013 | 01:04PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
you must be one of those nra nascar beer swiggling fools.
on March 5,2013 | 01:33PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
oo-oo-ooh, you're so clever.
on March 5,2013 | 01:36PM
cojef wrote:
A charismatic socialist who thumbed his nose at the US. Due to his untimely passing, his dream of reducing poverty in his homeland was not accomplished. Whether such grandiose scheme can work remains to be seen. It would be very interesting if his successor will follow Chavez's plan for Venenzuela. Exiles returning will certainly attempt to side-track Chavez's plan as well as the new regime's rule.
on March 5,2013 | 11:42AM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
well said, i doubt very much that maduro will carry on, he seems corruptable.
on March 5,2013 | 11:50AM
tiki886 wrote:
No less than Hugo himself. How did he manage to amass a personal fortune of $2 Billion dollars just by being an elected official from 1999 to 2013? And prior to that he was merely a community organizer.
on March 5,2013 | 12:32PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
does your keyboard have an IQ lock?
on March 5,2013 | 01:37PM
tiki886 wrote:
You obviously are not a student of history. Socialism and Communism doesn't work. The EU is currently proving that fact. Lenin, Marx, Stalin, Mao and North Korea all failed and in doing so, murdered hundreds of millions of their own citizens. History 101. Take a class.
on March 5,2013 | 12:25PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
i suppose your idea of laissez faire capitalism works? that's why over 11K people get shot every year now huh?
on March 5,2013 | 01:24PM
tiki886 wrote:
At least it not Obama doing the shooting yet. When Obama starts his killing it'll be in the millions just after he disarms law abiding Americans.
on March 5,2013 | 01:36PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
you're so smart but slightly paranoid.
on March 5,2013 | 01:39PM
ballen0607 wrote:
Slightly?! :-P
on March 5,2013 | 03:28PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
haha! i had that backwards, he's so paranoid but slightly smart.
on March 5,2013 | 03:31PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
you must be one of those nra nascar beer swiggling fools, join kaipooh.
on March 5,2013 | 01:44PM
SteveToo wrote:
What's wrong w/beer you fool?
on March 5,2013 | 03:05PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
haha, nothing.
on March 5,2013 | 03:06PM
SteveToo wrote:
11K people getting shot have nothing to do with capitalism. Most of those inner city people shooting each other are doing it because of the failure of American Socialists. Oops I mean Democrats. The worst place to live on the mainland if is in an inner city run by Democrats.
on March 5,2013 | 03:04PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
it has everything to do with capitalism. americans such as yourself are so self righteous, self indulgent and self serving that anything that threatens the very existence of that ideology has to be dealt with violently. it has nothing to with polical party, or the gun culture or the 2nd amendment. it has everything to do with the way life is structured here with competition at it's core and winners and losers as it's players. you never see a super rich, happy guy go on a shooting rampage do you? and yet there are poor people and people who lose round the world every day, but they don't go killing people now do they? the imperialist corporation were born here, so it makes sense that this nation suffers the most, the most suicides, the most killings, the most depressed, the most ignorant.
on March 5,2013 | 03:14PM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Wasn't he elected?
on March 5,2013 | 01:52PM
stanmanley wrote:
I've been told, "If I have nothing good to say, don't say it at all." In this case, I'll say nothing.
on March 5,2013 | 11:51AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Now is a good time to take over their oil industry!
on March 5,2013 | 12:35PM
tiki886 wrote:
Wait a minute. It was Chavez who stole American companies assets to begin with.

The national oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, hired the contractors to help it produce oil by operating drilling rigs, using technology to extract oil from aging wells or moving personnel or equipment on boats. El Comandante asserted greater control over the country’s energy industry in 2009 by seizing the assets of some foreign and domestic oil contractors. He stole Citgo's assets and broke contracts to do so.

Sort of like how Obama picked winners and losers in GM's bankruptcy and trashed the bonds holders while giving union retirees the first position of liquidating assets.

The plan was for GM's union retirees to receive 39% of the restructured company and $10 billion in cash in exchange for $20 billion in claims. Bondholders, however, receive a mere 10% for $27 billion in claims in the form of stock (and no cash). Only a Dictator could do what he did. Obama is a Commie Dictator.

on March 5,2013 | 01:12PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
move to venezuela if you hate obama so much, haha!
on March 5,2013 | 01:25PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
been there, done that.
on March 5,2013 | 01:26PM
jrboi96786 wrote:
I'm just gonna be honest, I don't like him... I lost my mother from cancer so I do feel bad even if it wasn't for the cancer... So yes, I have a mix feeling about it. RIP
on March 5,2013 | 12:36PM
tiki886 wrote:
Don't feel guilty. Did anyone shed a tear for Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Marx, Lenin or Mao?
on March 5,2013 | 12:56PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
And to blog against Iconic figures, is what a million Internet ipinions are. Lost blog names in a black hole.
on March 5,2013 | 01:02PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
thank you.
on March 5,2013 | 01:31PM
tiki886 wrote:
Iconic "figures"? They're yours and Nboss's heroes!
on March 5,2013 | 01:40PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
i hope you don't own any firearms?
on March 5,2013 | 01:50PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
and your heroes are bill o'reilly, rush limbaugh, sean hannity, and howdy doody.
on March 5,2013 | 01:59PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
and i won't shed a tear for you.
on March 5,2013 | 01:26PM
tiki886 wrote:
You don't have to. I'm not a Commie Dictator for you to admire.
on March 5,2013 | 01:41PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
you need to turn of that puter, it's making you ignorant.
on March 5,2013 | 01:45PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
does anybody even use that word anymore? it's about as outdated as the berlin wall.
on March 5,2013 | 01:48PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
you must be so smart since you have to show everyone you know how to use html.
on March 5,2013 | 01:52PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
He uses commie all the time. He must be 70-80 years old. That's there generation. Farm workers who tried to unionized in California in the 50's, were beaten by thugs and labelled Commies.
on March 5,2013 | 08:17PM
retire wrote:
So much for the Cuban health care system.
on March 5,2013 | 06:13PM
Mana07 wrote:
I hope Chavez is enjoying his conversation with El Diablo.
on March 5,2013 | 08:16PM
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