As it happened: Venezuela President Hugo Chavez dies

Key points

  • Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez, has died aged 58 after battling cancer for nearly two years
  • The news came in an official announcement on state television by Vice-President Nicolas Maduro
  • Mr Maduro will assume the presidency until an election is held within the next 30 days
  • Seven days of mourning have been declared and Mr Chavez's funeral will take place on Friday
  • A number of Latin American leaders have expressed great sadness for his passing
  • Military vows to protect Venezuela's sovereignty, integrity and security (All times in GMT)

Live text

Reporting:

  • David Gritten 
  • Anna Jones 
  • Penny Spiller 

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It has been announced that the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, has died. The news came in an official announcement by Vice-President Nicolas Maduro.

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Mr Chavez had been seriously ill with cancer for two years, undergoing several operations in Cuba, and had not been seen in public since he returned to Caracas last month.

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Mr Maduro said Mr Chavez died at 16:25 local time (20:55 GMT) at the military hospital in Caracas.

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The vice-president described it as "the hardest and most tragic news".

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"It's a moment of deep pain," Mr Maduro added, his voice choking.

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Hours earlier, the vice-president went on state television to warn that Mr Chavez's health was failing, saying he was entering his "most difficult hours".

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It followed Monday's announcement by Information Minister Ernesto Villegas that Mr Chavez was suffering from a "new, severe" respiratory infection.

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Mr Maduro also spoke earlier of a plot against Venezuela and said a US military attache had been expelled. The foreign minister later added that a second American had also been told to leave the country. Mr Maduro said a scientific commission could one day investigate whether Mr Chavez's illness was brought about by an "enemy attack".

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Crowds have meanwhile been gathering outside the military hospital in the capital where President Chavez was being treated to pray for him.

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A special deployment of the armed forces across the country has been announced by Vice-President Maduro, according to Union Radio Noticias, a commercial news network.