Maduro, age 50, had denied rumors in recent days about Chavez's well-being, though he had said multiple times he was fighting for his life. He confirmed Tuesday that the president had passed away "after battling a tough illness for nearly two years."
Chavez had entrusted Maduro, a former bus driver, as a loyal spokesman and his preferred choice as successor. The latter had been known to echo Chavez's sentiments publicly, and Foreign Policy reported it appears he wants to be "Chavez 2.0."
Bloomberg noted that it was not immediately clear whether Maduro would take over as interim president or if the National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello would assume the role. According to the Associated Press, Cabello would take over per Venezuela's constitution, but Maduro was Chavez's pick as successor. AP adds:
Venezuela's Constitution calls for snap presidential elections to be held if Chavez dies, and some analysts wondered whether Maduro's suggesting the country was under attack by U.S. subterfuge might not be an excuse to delay the election and tighten his grip on power.
Both Maduro and Cabello had been allegedly targeted in recent assassination plots, the AP reported in January.
Earlier today, Maduro accused the United States of spying and said he was expelling an American embassy official from the country. The vice president built his career around being loyal to Chavez, though it remains uncertain how he would lead on his own.