March 6, 2013 - 09:05 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez died on Tuesday, March 5 after a two-year battle with cancer, ending 14 years of his rule, Reuters reported.
The flamboyant 58-year-old had undergone four operations in Cuba for a cancer that was first detected in his pelvic region in mid-2011. He vanished from public view after December 11 surgery that resulted in complications and respiratory infections.
"It's a moment of deep pain," said Vice President Nicolas Maduro, choking up during a national address. "Commander, thank you so much, on behalf of these people whom you protected."
Military chiefs quickly pledged loyalty to Maduro, who will be caretaker leader until elections are called within 30 days. Weeping Chavez supporters poured onto the streets, chanting "Chavez lives! The revolution continues!" and "We are Chavez!"
"Don't let anyone try to convince you Chavez has gone ... He will always be with us," said Congress head Diosdado Cabello.
The president's death was announced by Maduro, flanked by cabinet ministers, less than an hour after he passed away.
State TV broadcast Chavez's emotional last speech from December, shops in Caracas locked up for fear of looting, and condolences came from around the world, including messages from filmmaker Oliver Stone and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Chavez's corpse will lie in state at a Caracas military academy until a formal funeral ceremony on Friday, and seven days of mourning will be observed, officials said.