Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has died.
The news came via Venezuela’s current Vice-President Nicolas Maduro.
A respiratory infection had made Chavez’s already fragile health even worse as the Venezuelan president struggled to recover after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2011.
The Venezuelan government had earlier been criticized for not releasing many details on the ailing leader’s health since he had cancer surgery in Cuba on Dec. 11. Information Minister Ernesto Villegas read a brief statement on television Monday. “Today there is a worsening of his respiratory function, related to his depressed immune system,” he said. “There is now a new, severe infection.”
“The president’s condition continues to be very delicate,” Villegas read. “The commander president is holding onto Christ and life, conscious of the difficulties he is facing and following the strict program created by his medical team.”
Chavez, 58, returned to Venezuela from Cuba in mid-February to much celebration. He had remained at the Dr. Carlos Arvelo Military Hospital in Caracas since then to undergo treatment. Chavez had not been seen since treatments began, aside from a photo released by the government to prove that he was still alive.
Chavez ruled the country for 14 years. He was re-elected to another six-year term in October 2012, but was never sworn in due to ongoing medical issues. Opposition members had protested the delayed swearing-in and called for an election to replace the ailing president, since he could not be sworn in by Jan. 10, as the constitution stipulates. A snap election was believed to be likely in the event of his death. Chavez had previously backed current Vice-President Nicolas Maduro.