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Hugo Chavez Is Dead

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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. "

Update 2: Our sister paper in Broward has compiled the Twitter reaction in Weston.  

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. 


-- Staff writer Michael E. Miller contributed to this report

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