Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is dead

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 06, 2013 00:30 hrs

Caracas, March 6 (IANS) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez lost his battle with cancer Tuesday at the age of 58. He died in a military hospital in Caracas, Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on national radio and television.

With tears in his eyes, Maduro addressed Venezuelans from the Doctor Carlos Arvelo military hospital, where Chavez passed his last two weeks after returning from Cuba Feb 18, Xinhua reported.

"At 4.25 p.m. (Tuesday), the commander President Hugo Chavez deceased," Maduro said.

He called the event a "historical tragedy" and urged Venezuelans to be vigilant for the peace of the country.

Accompanied by key members of the Executive Cabinet, Maduro offered thanks to friends from other countries.

"In this time of sorrow, we thank you for your eternal solidarity," he said.

He also called on the Venezuelan people of all political sections to unite together.

"Let there be no violence or hatred, but love, peace, unity and discipline," Maduro said.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan Defence Minister Diego Molero Bellavia said in a statement: "The National Bolivarian Arms Force echoes the call for unity. We are being deployed to ensure the security and sovereignty of the Venezuelan people."

Chavez was in power for 14 years. He was re-elected to a third six-year term in October 2012, but could not be sworn in as scheduled Jan 10 due to his serious health problems.

After seeking medical treatment for 70 days in Cuba, he returned home Feb 18. Since then, he was in the Caracas military hospital.

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