Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has died, his vice-president has announced.
Mr. Chavez had not made a public appearance since he returned to Venezuela last month after cancer treatment in Cuba.
A shaken Nicolas Maduro made the announcement this Tuesday evening.
Earlier, he stated the 58-year-old Venezuelan leader had a new, severe respiratory infection and had entered “his most difficult hours”.
Chavez was loved and hated in equal measures by the Venezuelan population. The outspoken leader won his sixth term this year prompting both waves of celebration amongst some and frustrated emigration from others.
Last May, he said he had recuperated from an unspecified cancer, after undergoing surgery and chemotherapy in 2011 and a further operation in February 2012.
However, in December 2012, he announced he needed further cancer surgery in Cuba, and named his Vice-President, Nicolas Maduro, as his preferred successor should the need arise.
Mr. Chavez remained out of public eye, finally returning to Venezuela in February. Just a week ago photos had been released of Chavez looking healthy.