Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has died at the age of 58 following a two-year battle against cancer,with  a severe respiratory infection. His  demise raises questions about the future of the oil-rich South American rich country.  President of Venezuela died on Tuesday afternoon, Vice President Nicolas Maduro has announced. "It's a moment of deep pain," he said, accompanied by senior ministers.  Foreign Minister Elias Jaua has announced in televised comments that Maduro will assume the interim presidency. Elections are to be held in 30 days, he added.  The country’s military chiefs appeared live on state television to pledge their loyalty to Maduro, whom Chavez had named as his preferred successor.

Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles, whom Chavez defeated in last year’s elections, has called for national unity in the wake of the president’s death.  "My solidarity is with the entire family and followers of President Hugo Chavez, we call for Venezuelan unity at this moment," Capriles wrote on Twitter.

Venezuela will observe seven days of national mourning.

US President Barack Obama said the US was interested in a "constructive" future relationship with Venezuela.  "At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez's passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government," Obama said in a brief written statement

Bolivian President Evo Morales declared that "Chavez is more alive than ever.”  “We are all Chavez,” said Rosario Murillo, the wife and spokeswoman of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, adding that the deceased Venezuelan president is “one of the dead who never die.”   Cuban government declared two days of national mourning and ordered the flag to be flown at half-mast. “The Cuban people view him as one of their most outstanding sons,” President Raul Castro’s office said in a statement.  Argentina too announced three days of mourning nationwide as the country’s President Cristina Fernandez and the President of neighboring Uruguay Jose Mujica prepare to travel to Venezuela for the funeral.  Chavez’s close allies, Ecuadorian President Rafael Ortega, praised the legacy of the Venezuelan president. Media agencies


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