Venezuelan VP: Hugo Chavez is dead



A woman walks past a mural of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas on Jan. 1, 2013.


Leo Ramirez

CARACAS, Venezuela — Hugo Chavez has died, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday.

This is breaking news. Check here for updates.

Venezuelan officials were called to the presidential palace as President Hugo Chavez's condition worsened. The leader, who had been fighting cancer, was suffering from a new and "severe" respiratory infection, a government official said.

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro held a meeting with political and military leaders on Tuesday. He accused "enemies of the fatherland" both at home and abroad, of seeking to undermine democracy in Venezuela.

Maduro called the cancer that has threatened Chavez an "attack" by his enemies, calling for an investigation, according to the BBC.

More on GlobalPost: Hugo Chavez is dead

Maduro said the government planned to expel a US embassy official on suspicion of espionage and planning to destabilize the country. The Associated Press said Maduro identified the American as the Air Force attache, accusing him of meeting with military officers and spying on the military.

Embassy spokesman Greg Adams identified the attache as David Delmonaco, according to the AP. He was given 24 hours to leave the country.

The Pentagon has confirmed that he is en route from Venezuela back to the United States, The New York Times said.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas read a brief statement on national television late Monday in which he described the president's condition as "very delicate," Reuters reported.

"Today there is a worsening of his respiratory function, related to his depressed immune system. There is now a new, severe infection," Villegas said.

GlobalPost Correspondent Girish Gupta, who is at the hospital where Chavez is receiving care, said some supporters had arrived at the hospital, crying and praying for the president.

"It's an incredibly emotional scene," he said.

Villegas said the president had been receiving high-impact chemotherapy.

"The commander-president remains clinging to Christ and to life, conscious of the difficulties that he is facing, and complying strictly with the program designed by his medical team," Villegas said.

The 58-year-old socialist leader was not seen in public for almost three months after undergoing an operation in Cuba, his fourth cancer surgery since the disease was detected in 2011.

More from GlobalPost: Hugo Chavez in chemotherapy, says Venezuela vice president

According to CNN, Maduro said Friday that Chavez is "fighting for his life." 

Despite his ill health, government officials insisted Chavez was fit to govern. But critics believe Venezuela is in a dangerous limbo without a fit and healthy leader.

The AP has a video report:

[View the story "'Long live Hugo Chavez': Maduro, amid outlandish allegations, pushes Venezuelan unity" on Storify]