Hugo Chavez dies after cancer battle

VENEZUELAN President Hugo Chavez has reportedly died after a long battle with cancer.

Vice-president Nicolas Maduro announced the 58-year-old's death on state television.

"We have received the hardest and most tragic news that... comandante President Hugo Chavez died today at 4.25pm," Maduro said on state television.

Mourners took to the streets of the country's capital Caracas upon hearing of Mr Chavez's death.

Mr Chavez leaves behind a bitterly divided country, The New York Times reports, with the unrest fuelled by months of uncertainty surrounding the deceased leader's health.

Attention will now shift to electing Mr Chavez's replacement.

The Venezuelan Constitution calls for an election within 30 days, with the vice president to assume the leadership in the interim.

Mr Maduro, who the former leader anointed as his political successor, is likely to come up against Henrique Capriles Radonski in the election, The New York Times reports.

Mr Radonski, a state governor, ran against Mr. Chavez in the October presidential election.

But The New York Times reports differing interpretations of the constitution makes it impossible to predict how the transition will pan out.

Mr Chavez led the country from 1999 until his death.

He led the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when he became the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.

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