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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died Tuesday afternoon, according to a public announcement by Vice President Nicolas Maduro. He was 58.Chavez's death ends his charismatic 14-year Socialist leadership of Venezuela and his two-year battle with cancer. He had not been seen in public since he reportedly underwent surgery in December. From Reuters:
Chavez easily won a new 6-year term at an election in October and his death will devastate millions of supporters who adored his charismatic style, anti-U.S. rhetoric and oil-financed policies that brought subsidized food and free health clinics to long-neglected slums.
Detractors, however, saw his one-man style, gleeful nationalizations and often harsh treatment of opponents as evidence of an egotistical dictator whose misplaced statist economics wasted a historic bonanza of oil revenues.Venezuelans will vote within 30 days for a new president, and Maduro is favored to win against centrist opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who lost to Chavez in October.