BREAKING: Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez dies

© Rafał Cichawa | Dreamstime.com
© Rafał Cichawa | Dreamstime.com

Mercurial, controversial president succumbs after an 18-month battle with cancer. Americans in or about to travel to Venezuela need to stay alert and follow events closely.

Hugo Chavez, the only president Venezuela has known for 14 years, died today of cancer at the age of 58. The type of cancer he had has never been disclosed.

Those interested in a look back at his life and political career will find that in a lengthy Associated Press story here.

Vice-President Nicholás Maduro made the announcement and called upon the nation to remain calm. But Mr. Chavez’s tenure saw Venezuela develop some deep political divisions, as well as a testy, uneven relationship with the United States. That makes it hard to predict what will happen in the country over the next few days and weeks.

The fact that this same Vice-President Maduro accused a US diplomatic attache of being a spy who gave President Chavez cancer probably won’t help much.

So far, the US State Department has issued no message to US citizens in the wake of President Chavez’s passing. That is bound to change. Meanwhile, if you’re an American, your best bet might be to stay calm, remain alert — and in the short term, keep your public movements to a minimum until you have a sense of how Venezuelans are reacting to this news.

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