Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez dies aged 58 after two-year battle with cancer

President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez has died aged 58
President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez has died aged 58
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez points at his head to show his hair has started to grow back after chemotherapy treatment (AP/Ariana Cubillos)
Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez with daughters, Maria Gabriela and Rosa Virginia (AP)
People withdraw money from cash machines next to posters of President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela (AP)
A photograph of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, alongside one of Jesus Christ, held by a Chavez supporter at a rally in Caracas (AP)
A supporter of Hugo Chavez wears a soccer shirt with the president's name and the number one in Caracas, Venezuela (AP)
A minister claims there is evidence of a plot to assassinate leading members of Hugo Chavez's government in Venezuela
A life-size cut out image of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is carried by a Chavez supporter during a symbolic inauguration ceremony (AP)
A supporter of Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez holds up a star covered in photographs of Chavez (AP/Fernando Llano)
Supporters of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez create a poster with his image alongside an outline of their country in Caracas (AP)
People hold candles during a vigil in support of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in Caracas (AP)
Supporters of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez pray as he is under surgery during a vigil at Simon Bolivar square in Caracas (AP)
A person holds an image of the Saint Jose Gregorio Hernadez as people gather to pray for Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in Caracas (AP)
A supporter of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez holds up a painting of him during a symbolic inauguration rally in Caracas (AP)
Hugo Chavez blows a goodbye kiss prior to boarding a plane near Caracas (AP)
Supporters of Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, gather for a vigil (AP)
Supporters of president Hugo Chavez celebrate outside the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela (AP)
President Hugo Chavez waves a Venezuelan flag as he greets supporters at the Miraflores presidential palace balcony in Caracas (AP)
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez waves as he arrives to a polling station in Caraca to cast his vote in the presidential election (AP)
Supporters of Venezuela president Hugo Chavez cheer after polling stations closed in Caracas (AP)
Supporters of Venezuela president Hugo Chavez cheer as he arrives for a campaign rally in Caracas (AP)
Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez sings with a member of The Cadillacs during a campaign rally in Caracas (AP)
There have been claims a plot to kill Hugo Chavez's brother Adan Chavez were hidden in a crossword puzzlet (AP/ Javier Galeano)
Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez with his daughter Rosa Virginia before they flew to Cuba (AP)
Fans of Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez shout their support for the leader who is recovering from cancer surgery (AP)
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez gestures to supporters from a balcony at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas (AP)
Hugo Chavez smiles during a meeting with his cabinet in Havana, Cuba (AP/Miraflores Press Office)
Hugo Chavez receives military honors outside Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela (AP/Fernando Llano)
Supporters of President Hugo Chavez gather for a rally in Caracas, Venezuela (AP/Fernando Llano)
Hugo Chavez gestures during an event at Teresa Carreno theatre in Caracas, Venezuela (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez greets supporters while travelling from Miraflores to Caracas, Venezuela (AP/Ariana Cubillos)
Hugo Chavez shakes hands with a rural worker in Santa Barbara, Barinas State, Venezuela (AP)
Hugo Chavez attends an event event honouring him at the Teresa Carreno theatre in Caracas, Venezuela (AP/Fernando Llano)
Hugo Chavez issued an order to temporarily halt new admissions to the country's overcrowded and violent prisons (AP)
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez told thousands of supporters in Caracas he would 'win his battle for life' and beat cancer (AP)
Fidel Castro and Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez in Havana, Cuba (AP)
Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez gestures during a religious event in solidarity with his struggle against cancer (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, center, waves during a visit to the Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate, Argentina, Saturday, May 16, 2009. Chavez is on a two-day official visit to Argentina. At left Daniel Peralta, governor of Santa Cruz province. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Young supporters of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez peer from a car after the National Electoral Council (CNE) announced the results of state and city elections in Caracas, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008. Chavez's allies won a majority in Venezuela's state elections, but the opposition made important gains, winning two of the most populous states and the mayor's post in Caracas. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez waves to supporters upon his arrival at a polling station in Caracas, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008. Chavez sought to hold on to his dominance in state and municipal elections Sunday, facing an opposition aiming to win back power in key states and cities. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Residents wait to cast their ballots outside a polling station in Caracas, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008. President Hugo Chavez sought to hold on to his dominance in state and municipal elections Sunday, facing an opposition aiming to win back power in key states and cities. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gesture at a news conference at the Meiendorf Castle residence outside Moscow on Tuesday, July 22, 2008. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, visiting Moscow to pursue weapons and energy deals, on Tuesday called for a strategic alliance with Russia to protect his country from the United States.
In this photo released by Cuba's newspaper Juventud Rebelde, former Cuba's President Fidel Castro speaks during a meeting with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, unseen, and Cuba's President Raul Castro, unseen, in Havana, Tuesday June 17, 2008. Cuban television showed the first images of Fidel Castro in more than five months, broadcasting a silent video of the ailing revolutionary chatting in a garden with visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. (AP Photo/Juventud Revelde)
Two opposition members paint the word "No" over an image of the Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez during a rally against constitutional reforms proposed by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2007. Venezuelans will vote on the changes in a referendum on Dec. 2, 2007.
Masked gunmen point guns toward student opponents of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, unseen, during a shootout at Venezuela's Central University in Caracas, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007, shortly after the anti-Chavez students returned from a protest against constitutional reforms that would expand Chavez's power. Shots were fired during the clashes where at least one person was killed and six injured, officials said.
Argentinian soccer legend Diego Armando Maradona, left, waves as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, center, embraces his Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales during the inauguration of the Copa America soccer tournament in San Cristobal, Venezuela, Tuesday, June 26, 2007.
A riot police armored vehicle sprays water against a kneeling university student in Caracas, Monday, May 28, 2007, during protests against Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez's decision to shut down opposition-aligned television station Radio Caracas Television, RCTV.
Policemen arrest a demonstrator outside Radio Caracas Television, RCTV, during clashes in Caracas, early Monday, May 28, 2007, after Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez decided not to renew the the opposition-aligned channel's broadcasting license which expired at midnight.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, right, embraces Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez during a welcoming ceremony at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, Thursday, March 6, 2008. Fernandez is on a one-day official visit to Venezuela.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez
President Hugo Chavez

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died yesterday at the age of 58 in a Caracas military hospital.

The democratically elected leader of the South American country had been struggling for the last several months with cancer the form of which was never fully disclosed.

While his death will end months of suspense that has cast a shadow of uncertainty across both his country and its leftist allies in the region it now also plunges one of the world’s leading petro-nations into what is certain to be pitched political struggle the outcome of which remains uncertain.

After winning a fourth term as president last October, Mr Chavez abruptly declared on 10 December last year that he was once again in the grip of the cancer that was first diagnosed in July 2011. The next day, after a tearful national television broadcast, he vanished to Havana, Cuba, for treatment.  He was never to be seen publicly again.

The death was announced on national television by Vice President Nicholas Maduro, who is now expected to fight in elections to succeed him. Mr Chavez, he told a shocked nation, had died “after battling a tough illness for nearly two years”.

The prolonged absence of Mr Chavez had already caused political turmoil, notably since being unable attend his own inauguration in Caracas in January.  Against furious remonstrations from the opposition, the government insisted at the time that the leader was still in charge of the nation from his hospital bed in Havana and he remained president in spite of not actually being sworn in for a new term.

Opposition patience with this arrangement – and with the relative lack of clear information of what the actual condition of the Mr Chavez was – had been wearing extremely thin. In mid-February the government allowed the first pictures of Mr Chavez to be published that showed him in his hospital cot being attended to by two of his daughters. 

Shortly thereafter he was flown in the dead of night to Caracas where he was installed in the main military hospital.  It seems now that he was moved so he could at die on his own soil.

The constitution now demands that elections be held across the country within 30 days to elect a new president and Vice President Maduro and his allies will doubtless do what they can to capitalise on the sympathy that the passing of Mr Chavez will elicit in the population. The national grieving process is likely to be a fevered process that will culminate with a funeral accompanied by giant public demonstrations of sorrow.

His death comes, however, at a time of deep uncertainty for Venezuela.  Oil prices have fluctuation while inflation and the rate of violent crime has soared to levels not seen in other Latin American countries. Mr Chavez leaves a population riven down the middle and most of the support for Maduro is likely to come from the poorer masses who have benefited from huge government health, housing and education programmes.

While Mr Maduro will doubtless proclaim his intention to prolong and build on the so-called Bolivarian socialist revolution that was begun by Mr Chavez upon his taking power, the opposition has a more viable leader to run against him that might have been the case before.  He is Henrique Capriles, a provincial governor, who built a wide base of support fighting in the last presidential contest last summer.

Between now and the election the leader of the national congress, Diosdado Cabello, would normally be expected to assume the interim presidency.

The announcement came just hours after Mr Maduro announced the government had expelled two US diplomats from the country suggesting that the US and its allies had been responsible for Mr Chavez contracting cancer.

The vice president said “we have no doubt” that Chavez’s cancer had been somehow induced by foul play 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.”

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