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Venezuela has announced seven days of mourning for Hugo Chavez, who has died aged 58, after 14 years as president, the BBC reported. Thousands of Mr Chavez’s supporters took to the streets of Caracas to express their grief. Mr Chavez had been seriously ill with cancer for more than a year. A self-proclaimed revolutionary, Hugo Chavez was a controversial figure in Venezuela and on the world stage. A staunch critic of the US, he inspired a left-wing revival across Latin America. Mr Chavez’s body will be taken in a procession to the Military Academy in Caracas where it will lie in state until a funeral on Friday. All schools and universities have been shut for the week. Announcing the death on Tuesday, Vice-President Nicolas Maduro called on the nation to close ranks after its leader’s demise. “Let there be no weakness, no violence. Let there be no hate. In our hearts there should only be one sentiment: Love.” Police and troops would be deployed nationwide “to guarantee the peace”, he added. A statement from the military said it would remain loyal to the vice-president and to parliament, it added, urging people to remain calm. Crowds of supporters gathered outside the Caracas hospital where he died, chanting “We are all Chavez!” There were isolated reports of violence after the news, with attackers burning the tents of a group of students who had been demanding more information about Mr Chavez’s condition. Nobody was injured in the incident. Vice-President Maduro will assume the presidency until an election is called within 30 days.
Countries across Latin and South America are paying tribute to Hugo Chavez, the region’s political strong man, Euronews informs. Bolivia’s Evo Morales called Chavez “A brother in solidarity, a revolutionary comrade, a Latin- American who fought for his country and the greater nation just like Simon Bolivar. He gave his life for the liberation of the people of Venezuela,” he said, “all the Latin American countries and for all anti imperialists around the world.” Despite their ideological differences, Brazil’s Dilma Roussef was magnanimous. “The Brazilian government has not always agreed with his politics, but today we recognize that Chavez was a great leader.” she conceded. Columbia’s Juan Manuel Santos also paid tribute to what he said was a political and personal loss. “It’s a big loss for the Venezuelan people and for the region – for Columbia and for me in particular.”According to Al Jazeera, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “He was an uncommon and strong man who looked into the future and always set the highest target for himself”. News of the death of Hugo Chavez broke during a press conference at the UN in New York. There was an immediate reaction from Ban ki-Moon to the death of the man who enjoyed some colourful moments at the General Assembly. “As a president of Venezuela he has been making his own contributions to his country’s development at the same time as the Secretary-General. I will be able to issue a more formal statement, I’d like to convey my deepest condolence to the families and people and government of Venezuela on the loss of President Chavez.” Academy award-winning actor Sean Penn and director Oliver Stone have paid tribute to Venezuela’s President, according to the BBC. “I lost a friend I was blessed to have,” said Penn, “and poor people around the world lost a champion”. Stone, whose documentary, South of the Border, celebrated Mr Chavez’s 14-year leadership, praised him as a “hero”. “Hugo Chavez will live forever in history. My friend, rest finally in a peace long earned.” he tweeted. Penn, who first met the president in 2007, made a surprise appearance at a candlelight vigil in Bolivia last December during Mr Chavez’s cancer surgery.The US described the death as a “challenging time”, reaffirming what it described as its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with Caracas. Analysts say Mr Chavez’s death could alter the political balance in Latin America – dealing a blow to leftist states while favouring more centrist countries. There could also be an economic impact given that Venezuela sells oil at below market prices to some neighbouring countries, especially in the Caribbean.The President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, sent a message of condolences to the Venezuelan VP expressing their regret to the passing away of Mr. Chavez