Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died Tuesday at a military hospital in Caracas, Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced with a cracking voice and tearful eyes, DPA reported.
"We have received the toughest and most tragic news we can convey to the people: commander Hugo Chavez has died at 4:25 pm (2055 GMT) this afternoon after battling the illness for almost two years," Maduro said at the hospital.
He called on Venezuelans to react peacefully, as a family.
Chavez, 58, had been suffering from an unspecified form of abdominal cancer since June 2011 and was gravely ill after undergoing a fourth surgery in mid-December in Havana. He returned on February 18 to Caracas.
His condition had been critical since December and became gravely ill in recent days with a respiratory infection.
Chavez, who led a failed military coup in 1992 and became the democratically elected president in 1999, was unable to attend his own inauguration for another six-year term in mid-January after winning re-election in October with 55 per cent of the vote.
Chavez spent his last days in the company of his daughters. He last addressed Venezuelans on December 8 to ask them to vote for Maduro in any future elections in case he was unable to recover.
National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello is to take power until after a new presidential election, which is to be called.