CARACAS, VENEZUELA - DECEMBER 05: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaks at a press conference in Miraflores Palace December 5, 2006 in Caracas, Venezuela. Chavez was officially declared the re-elected president by electoral authorities today after defeating challenger Manuel Rosales in the December 3 election. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

When the news arrived at 4.25pm local time yesterday it was greeted with mixed emotions in Caracas. His supporters grieved, his opponents celebrated. But few were shocked. Hugo Chavez had not been seen in public since he flew to Havana on 11 December for surgery on a recurrence of his pelvic tumour. There were the pictures of him smiling with his daughters when he returned home from Cuba last month, but only his inner circle would ever see him in the flesh again. Last night in Caracas, gunshots rang out in the pro-Chavez parts of town. “My mother told me not to come home tonight, to stay in the east, where people are with the opposition,” said Oriana Gonzalez, who lives in western Caracas but travels to work across town.

Shortly after the announcement, various military generals appeared on television to announce they would guarantee the “peace and security of the country”.

But many feared the violence that has characterised Venezuela in recent years would now spiral out of control.

Raul Villegas, a Chavez supporter from western Caracas, said: “I will not be leaving my house for some time – I expect riots to be happening throughout the city. Caracas isn’t safe tonight.”

“Everyone expected this sooner or later,” said Bruno Cruicchi, a businessman in the Candelaria district. “Our emotions here are varying between sadness and acceptance. We have had a long time to consider this. People around me are shutting up their shops and leaving early because they fear there are going to be riots tonight. What needs to happen now is that the government needs to taker a strong grip, otherwise we’re going to have a very difficult situation on our hands,” he added.

Read the original story on The Independent

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Alasdair Baverstock MA is an award-winning multimedia foreign correspondent based in Mexico City, with more than five years of experience covering Latin America. Originally from London, and with full NCTJ certification, he specialises in news and feature journalism for print, radio and television. His work has previously been used as set-texts in British A-Level examinations. He currently works as CGTN America's Mexico correspondent, and has formerly published work in TIME Magazine, Daily Mail, The Atlantic, Penthouse, Fox News, BBC, Daily Telegraph, TRT World, and others.

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