President of Venezuela Hugo “El Comandante” Chavez died Tuesday of a massive heart attack, according to a statement the head of his presidential guard, Gen. Jose Ornella, made to The Associated Press Wednesday night.
“He couldn’t speak but he said it with his lips … `I don’t want to die. Please don’t let me die,’ because he loved his country, he sacrificed himself for his country,” Ornella told the AP outside of the military academy in Caracas.
For the past two years, Chavez, 58, had been battling a yet unspecified form of cancer. A day prior to his passing, the Venezuelan government told the public that he’d been suffering from a “severe new respiratory infection,” the AP reports. The AP adds that the announcement was the second of its kind since Chavez underwent his fourth cancer surgery in Cuba on Dec. 11.
Chavez was a polarizing figure domestically and internationally who did little to endear himself to leaders of Western governments. He instead forged alliances with Fidel and Raul Castro of Cuba and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran.
Labeled the “Western Hemisphere’s most vocal leftist leader” by the Miami Herald shortly after his death, Chavez, who’d been Venezuela’s president for 14 years, is survived by four children and four grandchildren.