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Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez Dies, Vice President Maduro Says

Hugo Chavez, Avowed Socialist Leader of Venezuela
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez salutes during a military parade to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his failed coup attempt, in Caracas on Feb. 4, 2012. Photographer: Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has died following a battle with cancer, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said today.

Chavez died at 4:25 p.m. Caracas time (3:55 p.m. New York time), Maduro said.

Chavez, who won re-election to a third six-year term in October after saying he was “totally free” of the disease, had not appeared in public since Dec. 10, when he flew to Cuba to undergo his fourth surgery since June 2011. Before leaving, the 58-year-old called on Venezuelans to vote for Maduro should he be unable to complete his term, which began on Jan. 10.

According to Venezuela’s constitution an election must be held within 30 days of the president’s death. It’s unclear whether Maduro or National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello will take over on an interim basis after the Supreme Court ruled in January that the ailing president could delay his swearing in for a new term.

Chavez returned to Caracas on Feb. 18 and went directly to a military hospital, the government said at the time.

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