Fear, tears as Venezuela announces death of Chavez
By Fabiola Sanchez and Frank Baja ,APCARACAS, Venezuela -- Some in anguish, some in fear, Venezuelans raced for home and stocked up on food and water Tuesday after the government announced the death of President Hugo Chavez, the larger-than-life firebrand socialist who led the nation for 14 years.
March 7, 2013, 12:00 am TWN
Vice President Nicolas Maduro's voice broke and tears ran down his face as he appeared on national television to announce that Chavez died at 4:25 p.m. local time (3:55 p.m. EST, 1755 GMT) “after battling hard against an illness over nearly two years.”
He did not say what exactly killed Chavez, although the government had announced the previous night that a severe new respiratory infection had severely weakened him.
A few hours later, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua affirmed one of Chavez's final wishes: Maduro would be interim president and then be the ruling party's candidate to carry on Chavez's populist “revolution” in elections to be called within 30 days.
It was a day fraught with mixed signals, some foreboding and some violent. Just a few hours before announcing Chavez's death, Maduro made a virulent speech against enemies he claimed were trying to undermine Venezuelan democracy.
And he said two U.S. military attaches had been expelled for trying to destabilize the nation.
In announcing the death of the former army paratrooper who wielded Venezuela's oil wealth to benefit the poor and win friends regionally, Maduro shifted tone.
He called on Venezuelans to be “dignified heirs of the giant man” Chavez was.
“Let there be no weakness, no violence. Let there be no hate. In our hearts there should only be one sentiment: Love. Love, peace and discipline.”
The government declared 7 days of mourning and closed all schools and universities until next Monday.
(Related stories on pages 3 and 6)