VPRO-E NEWS: Venezuelan President Hugo Chaves is dead.


(CNN) – A deeply divided Venezuela is mourning its late leader and preparing to pick a new president to replace him.

Venezuelan officials called for peace and unity after President Hugo Chavez’s death on Tuesday, emphasizing in state television broadcasts that all branches of the government and the military were standing together.

Elections will be held in 30 days, and Vice President Nicolas Maduro will assume the presidency in the interim, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said in an interview broadcast on state-run VTV.

Tearing up as he announced Chavez’s death after a long battle with cancer, Maduro called on Venezuelans to remain respectful.

“We must unite now more than ever,” Maduro said.

Henrique Capriles Radonski, a former presidential candidate and opposition leader, said Venezuelans should come together.

“This is not the time for difference,” he said. “It is the time for unity. It is the time for peace.”

Supporters of Chavez poured into a Caracas square soon after news of his death spread. Some wept openly. Others waved flags and held up pictures of the late president.

There were no reports of major violence, but there was palpable tension in the streets, as some Venezuelans heading home from work tried to steer clear of Chavez’s fervent supporters.

Venezuela’s military is in a “process of deploying … to ensure the safety of all Venezuelans” and to support the country’s constitution in the wake of Chavez’s death, said Adm. Diego Molero, Venezuela’s defense minister.

CNN’s Shasta Darlington, Mariano Castillo, Rafael Romo, Patrick Oppmann, Juan Carlos Lopez, Ione Molinares and Pam Benson and journalist Osmary Hernandez contributed to this report

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