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Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez dies

Posted at 5:06 PM, Mar 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-05 14:24:20-05

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — He saw himself as a revolutionary and savior of the poor. But the legacy of Hugo Chavez (OO'-goh CHAH'-vez) will be much more complex.

His death was announced to Venezuelans on national television this afternoon. Chavez lost a two-year battle with cancer, the only adversary he couldn't beat. He continually battled detractors and outsmarted rivals, defeating a coup attempt and winning re-election three times.

Chavez used Venezuela's vast oil income to fund social programs including food markets, free clinics, new public housing and education. That made him extremely popular with the poor. Official statistics showed poverty rates declined from 50 percent at the beginning of Chavez's first term in 1999 to 32 percent in the second half of 2011.

Chavez used his booming voice and folksy style to electrify crowds. But his 14 years in office were marked by polarized struggles and sharp criticism of the U.S. In a 2006 speech to the U.N. General Assembly, he called President George W. Bush the devil, saying the podium reeked of sulfur after Bush's address.

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VENEZUELA (AP)-- President Hugo Chavez, the populist leader of oil-rich Venezuela, has died at age 58.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro is taking over leadership of Hugo Chavez's political movement after the socialist leader's death. Maduro now faces the daunting task of rallying support in a deeply divided country while maintaining unity within his party's ranks. Maduro decidedly lacks the vibrant personality that made Chavez a one-man political phenomenon in Venezuela, but he has the advantage of being Chavez's hand-picked successor.