Hugo Chavez, the passionate and often controversial president of Venezuela died today at the age of 58, after a two-year battle with cancer, according to Vice President Nicolas Maduro .
Maduro delivered the news via a televised speech, surrounded by senior ministers. He called Chavez’s passing “a moment of deep pain”, according to Reuters.com
During his time in office he was one of Latin America’s most polarizing figures. Even though democratically elected in 1999, Chavez held onto power by tightly controlling the media. He and his government were routinely criticized for human rights abuses, particularly restricting freedom of the press.
Chavez was often a thorn in the side of the United States.Â Hez often allied himself with some of America’s enemies including Fidel Castro and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Venezuelan leader used his country’s vast oil reserves to help the poor heat their homes via Citgo, the gasoline company owned by Venezuela. Chavez provided heating oil at 40% off to poor Americans, and provided 100,000 subsidized barrels of oil each day for Communist Cuba.
In his last public appearance before his departure for Cuba, Chavez said if he were to die before completing his current term or being sworn in for the next, Venezuelans should elect Vice President Nicolas Maduro to succeed him, saying, “This I ask you from the heart.”
The Venezuelan Constitution, however, allows the president of the National Assembly to step in should the elected president be unable to serve out the term. The presiding legislative chief, Diosdado Cabello, will be required by the constitution to organize a new presidential election within 30 days.