CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro says President Hugo Chavez has died, following a two-year battle with cancer.

The Associated Press reports that 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.

Venezuela's defense minister is pledging that the military will remain loyal to the constitution in the wake of President Hugo Chavez's death.

Admiral Diego Molero appeared on national television to appeal for "unity, tranquility and understanding" among Venezuelans.

He says troops will safeguard the sovereignty of the country.

Chavez was a former paratroop commander and fiery populist, who waged continual battle for his revolutionary ideas and outsmarted his rivals time and again, defeating a coup attempt, winning re-election three times, and using his country's vast oil wealth to rally Latin American allies. Chavez described himself as a "humble soldier" in the battle for socialism and against U.S. hegemony. He thrived on confrontation with Washington, political opponents at home, or any Latin American president who crossed him.


-Associated Press Obituary