The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez from an undisclosed form of cancer clears the way for new elections to determine whether his socialist revolution lives on without him. Elections would have to be held within 30 days.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro is Chavez's chosen successor, but he could face a challenge from Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles, who lost to Chavez in the October 2012 election.
The 50-year-old Maduro somberly announced on national television Tuesday that Chavez had died. Maduro urged the Venezuelan people to show strength and courage and to be united and fulfill the expectations of "this great leader." Maduro was one of the Venezuelan officials who had traveled to Cuba to visit Chavez during the president's medical treatment on the island.
Prior to the announcement that Chavez had succumbed to his illness, Maduro held a meeting with the Cabinet, military officers and state governors in Caracas. State television said its purpose was "to define strategies regarding various projects for the development of our country."
Also Tuesday, Maduro accused Venezuela's enemies of attacking the president with cancer. The vice president did not say how that could have been accomplished.
In a separate development, Venezuela announced that two U.S. military attaches were expelled from Venezuela, accusing them of planning to destabilize the country. A Pentagon spokesman issued a statement rejecting the claims that the United States was involved in any kind of conspiracy to destabilize the Venezuelan government.
Maduro is a former bus driver and labor union leader who sports a thick moustache. He held the post of foreign minister for six years.