CARACAS(ANN)Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has died after a two-year battle with cancer, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said in a televised speech. He was 58.
The fiercely anti-American leader ran Venezuela for 14 years, consistently beating back both domestic opposition and international pressure. After winning re-election in October 2012, Chavez’ debilitated state forced him to drop out of sight, causing him to miss his own inauguration as he underwent chemotherapy in Cuba.
As his health reportedly worsened, speculation swirled about who was running the country — and who could take Chavez’s place in the event of his likely demise.
Chavez’s death opens the way for a new election within 30 days. Appearing on state TV, Venezuela’s military chiefs pledged their loyalty to Maduro, who Chavez had named as his preferred successor.
Born in 1954 to two school teachers, Chavez first rose to prominence in 1992 when he spearheaded an abortive attempt to overthrow the government of then president Carlos Andres Perez. The revolt claimed nearly 20 lives, and earned Chavez a two year prison sentence before he was pardoned. He then embarked on a political career that ushered him into the presidency in 1999.
Venezuela has the second largest oil reserves in the world — 211 billion barrels, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).They are the fourth largest supplier to the US, providing 951,000 barrels per day.