Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez lost his battle with cancer, according to a national televised address by his vice-president Nicolas Maduro. He was 58.
Chavez, who had been battling cancer for the past two years, was seen and heard less and less in public since undergoing surgery in Cuba in December last year. That was his fourth operation since the disease was detected in mid-2011.
In recent months, the Venezuelan government was repeatedly forced to deny rumours, particularly among pro-opposition media, that Chavez may already be dead. Chavez had in the past undergone several grueling rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, which at times left him bald and bloated. He twice wrongly declared himself cured.
On 30 June 2011, Chávez stated that he was recovering from an operation to remove an abscessed tumor with cancerous cells.He required a second operation in December 2012.
Chávez was to have been sworn in on January 10, 2013, but the National Assembly of Venezuela agreed to postpone the inauguration to allow him time to recuperate and return from a third medical treatment trip to Cuba.
Meanwhile, Venezuela said it was expelling a United States embassy official for plotting against the government after the country's vice president said Chavez's enemies poisoned him with the cancer he has battled for nearly two years.