President Hugo Chavez has died at the age of 58, Venezuela’s Vice-President Nicolas Maduro has announced.
Hugo Chavez had not appeared in public since he returned to Venezuela last month after cancer treatment in Cuba.
An emotional Nicolas Maduro made the announcement on Tuesday evening, flanked by leading Venezuelan political and military leaders.
He said that long-standing President Hugo Chavez died at 4:25 p.m. local time.
Earlier, Nicolas Maduro said Hugo Chavez had a new, severe respiratory infection and had entered “his most difficult hours”.
One of the most visible, vocal and controversial leaders in Latin America, Hugo Chavez, a former army paratrooper, won the presidency in 1998 and had most recently won another six-year presidential term in October 2012.
Last May, Hugo Chavez said he had recovered from an unspecified cancer, after undergoing surgery and chemotherapy in 2011 and a further operation in February 2012.
However, in December 2012, Hugo Chavez announced he needed further cancer surgery in Cuba, and named his Vice-President, Nicolas Maduro, as his preferred successor should the need arise.
Hugo Chavez remained out of public view, finally returning to Venezuela in February.
Hugo Chavez’s death is expected to trigger a snap election, though the opposition has argued that it should have been held after Chavez was unable to be sworn in on January 10.
The campaigning has already unofficially begun, with VP Nicolas Maduro, who Hugo Chavez has said should succeed him, frequently commandeering all broadcast channels to promote the “revolution” and vilify the opposition.