UPDATE (5:00 p.m): Hugo Chavez has died, according to The Associated Press and Reuters.
Original story: Chavez Stricken With 'New, Severe Infection'
Another day, another near-death news report for the man who upended U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is suffering from a "new, severe" infection and is in "very delicate" shape, a government spokesman revealed late Monday, according to The Associated Press.
Youthful opposition leader Henrique Capriles accused the Venezuelan government last week of concealing the truth about Chavez's medical condition, the AP reported. On Monday Capriles tweeted, "I challenge you to show a photo of Sr.Presidente" and, "This is the most corrupt government in the history of Venezuela!"
Chavez, 58, has held office since 1999. Venezuela's oil wealth—its proven oil reserves are the largest in the world, according to a 2012 Bloomberg report that cited data from energy giant BP—enabled Chavez to embark on an ambitious socialist experiment in his country, winning the adoration of the poor and an antagonistic relationship with the U.S. as he organized a bloc of fellow leftist leaders in the region.
The larger-than-life leader has suffered from cancer since 2011 and has repeatedly visited Cuba for medical treatment. In October, Chavez won re-election to a six-year term as president, but in January he was unable to leave his hospital bed in Cuba to be sworn in at home.
In February Chavez returned to Venezuela. Longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro—a close ideological ally to Chavez who relinquished power to his brother in 2011—said in a statement quoted by the Chinese Xinhua news service that Chavez's condition was kept relatively secret "to avoid giving the fascist groups the opportunity to plan their cynical actions against the Bolivarian revolutionary process."
In the event of his death, Chavez has endorsed Vice President Nicolas Maduro as his successor. A new presidential election would have to be called within 30 days, under the country's constitution, and Capriles—who lost to Chavez in October by a vote of 55 percent to 44 percent—is considered a likely opposition candidate.