Even as he lay dying, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez picked a fight with the US. El Universal of Caracas said "Chavez died" in a banner headline Tuesday.
A Google Translation of the paper said: "Hugo Chavez died after a long battle against cancer, a disease that was treated in Havana since mid-2011. The President had traveled to Cuba, in this final stage the December 8, 2012, two months after his fourth election, to be operated for the fourth time."
Venezuelan TV said Chavez died at 4:25 p.m.
The Associated Press reported the country had expelled two US military attachés, claiming they met with military officers to destabilize the country. The Los Angeles Times and CBS reported he had died shortly after the expulsions.
“We completely reject the Venezuelan government’s claim that the United States is involved in any type of conspiracy to destabilize the Venezuelan government,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement.
Human Rights Watch said, “Hugo Chávez’s presidency was characterized by a dramatic concentration of power and open disregard for basic human rights guarantees.”
El Trajajadores of the Communist Party in Havana commented: “He died a good man. Let us raise a requiem for Chavez and then think what José Martí wrote one day: ‘The tomb is the route, and not the end.’”
Ria Novosti said the head of Venezuela's Congress, Diosdado Cabello, will assume the interim presidency before an election is held, as called for in the country's constitution.
The BBC said the government announced Vice President Nicolas Maduro would be acting president.
Chavez, who returned from Cuba in February with no notice after being treated for cancer, has long been the face of leftist opposition to the US in South America, though his biggest fights were with former President George Bush.
The New York Times reported Bush had given his “tacit support” to a coup in 2002 that removed Chavez from power for 48 hours.
The 58-year-old Chavez had not appeared in public since his return, and his inauguration to a fourth term as president was delayed. Little information had been released on his condition.
On Monday night, CNN reported Information Minister Ernesto Villegas saying on national television that the President was having problems breathing “related to the state of his depressed immune system.”
According to Wikipedia, Chavez announced on June 30, 2011 that he was recovering from an operation “to remove an abcessed tumor with cancerous cells. He required a second operation in December 2012.”.
Chavez was seen as a leader of a “Pink Tide” of 12 leftist and socialist leaders elected in Latin America since 1998. In addition, his friendship with the Castros in Cuba was seen as a slap in the face to Washington.
Venezuela’s oil revenue made it possible for him to help Cuba after the collapse of the Russian empire. Havana will be watching events in Caracas closely.
Foreign Policy said Chavez was so weak that he had to be “sedated before takeoff, and the plane flew at a low altitude to avoid compromising his delicate health and an ongoing respiratory problem. Upon his return, he was taken to the military hospital in Caracas. When he was safely in his room, messages went out on his Twitter account, thanking Cuba, Fidel and Raul Castro, Chávez” and to the people of Venezuela, "We have arrived again to Venezuela. Thank God. Thanks to my beloved country. Here we will continue treatment."
The country’s constitution calls for a special election to elect a successor if Chavez dies
Latin America as a whole is in much better shape than in the past, and there is no need for the US to support dictators to stop the spread of Russian communism.
Reuters says the Institute of International Finance reports the region “outpaced other emerging market regions as a magnet for foreign capital in 2011 and 2012…”