President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela died Tuesday afternoon after a struggle with cancer, the government announced, leaving behind a bitterly divided nation in the grip of a political crisis that grew more acute as he languished for weeks, silent and out of sight, in hospitals in Havana and Caracas.
Close to tears and his voice cracking, Vice President Nicolás Maduro said he and other officials had gone to the military hospital where Mr. Chávez was being treated, sequestered from the public, when “we received the hardest and most tragic information that we could transmit to our people.”
The Constitution says that, since Mr. Chávez was at the start of a term, the nation should “proceed to a new election” within 30 days, and Foreign Minister Elías Jaua said in a television interview that Mr. Maduro would take the helm in the meantime.
Mr. Chávez long accused the United States of trying to undermine or even assassinate him; indeed, the Bush administration gave tacit support for a coup that briefly removed him from power in 2002.
It was the ultimate paradox for a man who seemed never at a loss for words, often improvising for hours at a time on television, haranguing, singing, lecturing, reciting poetry and orating.
And Mr. Maduro is far from having Mr. Chávez’s visceral connection to the masses of Venezuela’s poor.
John Sadel, 28, a supervisor in a plastics production facility in Bethlehem, Pa., said, “I’m not saying change everything the church stands for, but you need to evolve with the times if you want to remain a viable religion.”
Genial, down to earth and genuinely curious, the governor can disarm with a quip or a goofy grin.
In a recent interview at Wynnebrook Elementary School in West Palm Beach, Mr. Scott, wearing black cowboy boots emblazoned with an alligator and Florida flags, defended his new pragmatism, saying re-election concerns played no role in them.
Environmentalists, who once pilloried him for slashing state regulatory agencies, now have a seat at his table.