|Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dies|
|Wednesday, 06 March 2013 19:43|
Maduro, surrounded by other government officials, announced the death in a national television broadcast on Tuesday.
“In the immense pain of this historic tragedy that has affected our fatherland, we call on all the compatriots to be vigilant for peace, love, respect and tranquility,” Maduro said.Maduro said the government had deployed the armed forces and police “to accompany and protect our people and guarantee the peace”.
Elias Jaua, the foreign minister, said Chavez’s hand-picked successor Maduro would take over as interim leader pending the next election, declaring: "It is the mandate that comandante President Hugo Chavez gave us.”
Venezuela's constitution, however, specifies that the speaker of the National Assembly, currently Diosdado Cabello, should assume the interim presidency if a president can’t be sworn in.
Military commanders quickly pledged loyalty to Maduro.
Defence Minister Diego Molero said the armed forces would defend the constitution and respect Chavez’s wishes.
The authorities said a new vote would be called within 30 days.
Chavez’s body was taken to a military academy yesterday, where he will lie in state until a memorial service with foreign leaders tomorrow. The government has announced seven days of mourning.
Henrique Capriles, the opposition leader who lost to Chavez in October last year, said: “This is not the time for differences. This is the time for unity, the time for peace,” he said, insisting he and Chavez were “adversaries, but never enemies”.
Messages of condolences for Chavez’s death came from around the world.
US President Barack Obama, in a statement, called Chavez’s passing as a “challenging time” for Venezuela.
“The United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government,” Obama said.
“As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.”
Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general, said he is “conveying condolence” to the Venezuelan president's “family and the people of Venezuela”, according to Al Jazeera’s James Bays, who was reporting from New York.
Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, also issued as statement describing Chavez’s death as a “tragedy’.
“He was a great politician for his country and for the world as a whole,” Churkin said.
Meanwhile, a teary-eyed Bolivian President Evo Morales, one of Chavez’s closest allies in Latin America and most loyal disciples, declared that “Chavez is more alive than ever”.
“Chavez will continue to be an inspiration for all peoples who fight for their liberation,” Morales said on Tuesday in a televised speech. “Chavez will always be present in all the regions of the world and all social sectors.”
Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Caracas, said “millions of people” are expected to attend the funeral. “Chavez is known as a guy who could bring out his supporters and that is what's going to happen,” Elizondo said.
“He is such a big figure here in Venezuela, you cannot overstate it. He is larger than life.” — Al Jazeera