|The last photo released of Chavez in the hospital last month.|
After months of battling a recurring bout of cancer, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has died. His vice president, Nicolas Maduro, announced the news on Venezuelan television about a half-hour ago, at 4:30 p.m., CNN reports
His death is likely to lead to political turmoil in a nation he's dominated for the past 14 years. The constitution calls for a new election in the next 30 days, but his government has already called on supporters
to be "on war footing."
The news was greeted with a mix of emotions from Doral to Weston to Miami's other Venezuelan enclaves where many fled Chavez's regime.
Vincente Pugliese, director of VEPPEX, an organization of Venezuelan exiles, says he's concerned about what Chavez's death will mean in the short term in his homeland.
"The fact that Chavez has died doesn't mean that his regime has disappeared or that his armed groups are gone," Pugliese says.
Pugliese predicts a protracted conflict between Chavistas and reformers, and fears the military will use any conflict as an excuse to delay elections.
"Now we have see if they respect the Constitution, because they are already saying there are going to have five days of mourning," he says. "But the constitutional process has to get under way, which would put in charge the head of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello."
Chávez had battled cancer since June 2011 but seemed to get the better of the disease after a series of treatments in Cuba. He won re-election this past October, beating Henrique Capriles in the closest election since he took power in 1998.
But after the election, Chávez disappeared from public view, returning to Cuba for more treatment and missing his scheduled inauguration ceremony. He returned to Caracas last month but had been fighting a severe respiratory infection ever since.
Mourning their leader, Chavistas flooded the streets of Caracas after Maduro's announcement on television this afternoon, the New York Times
The struggle for power in the wake of his death is likely to be bruising. Chávez anointed Maduro as his successor, but he's less powerful than Cabello, the National Assembly's president. Capriles -- who united the opposition before losing in October -- is likely to wage a strong campaign for the presidency.
We'll update this post as more news breaks.Update:
Doral police have plans to close 41st Street between 79th and 87th Avenues to accomodate rallies or protests connected to Chavez's death, CBS4 reports
. Doral's mayor, Luigi Boria (the first Venezuelan-born mayor in the U.S., incidentally), organized the plan as Chavez's health declined earlier this month.
News crews have already started flocking to Doral's Venezuelan hotspots, including El Arepazo -- a popular arepa joint -- for reaction:
|via @rojasingrid's Twitter|
|News crews descend on Doral|
Update 3: At least 300 people have gathered at El Arepazo 2 in Doral, drinking Polar, ordering arepas and waving Venezuelan flags. There were chants of "Ole! Ole! Ole! Se Fue! Se Fue! Se Fue!", and one little girl waved a flag while chanting "Fidel is next! Fidel is next!"
A huge media scrum has camped outside the restaurant, with at least a dozen media vans from CNN to Telemundo to every local stations camped out to film the party.
In general, the mood has been celebratory but fairly restrained, in part because many know a tough, turbulent post-Chavez period lies ahead.
|via @JennyDazaaR's Twitter|
|The crowd outside El Arepazo 2|