Venezuela’s divisive President Chavez dies

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
March 6, 2013

Hugo Chavez dies at age 58 after a 14-year term as president, North Korea’s military preparations put South on edge, and a Russian dancer cast as villains confesses to brutal acid attack. Today is Wednesday, March 6, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez attends a ceremony to mark the nation's aviation day in the central state of Guarico, 200 miles south of Caracas, December 10, 2008. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

All eyes on Venezuela as Chavistas mourn fallen ruler. After battling cancer for two years, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died on Tuesday at age 58.  Devastated Chavez supporters wept and mourned the loss of their leader in public squares around the country. Vice President Nicolas Maduro will act as the country’s leader until a new president is elected. Maduro, who Chavez supported as his successor, will likely face the centrist governor of Miranda state, Henrique Capriles, in upcoming elections. Populist ruler Chavez leaves a complex legacy:

That intense emotional connection underpinned his rule, but critics saw his autocratic style, gleeful nationalizations and often harsh treatment of rivals as hallmarks of a dictator whose misguided policies squandered a historic bonanza of oil revenues.

The U.S. offered a muted response, stating its hope for a fair election that will allow for a “constructive relationship” with Venezuela.

Tensions rise as Pyongyang implements no-fly, no-sail zones. Following the U.S. and China’s agreement on a draft U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution and amid military drills by South Korea and the U.S., North Korea has taken steps that suggest Pyongyang could be preparing for action:

North Korea has set no-fly and no-sail zones off its east and west coasts that indicates it will conduct major military drills, but test firing of short-to-medium-range missiles cannot be ruled out, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said on Wednesday.

A top North Korean general said on state television that North Korea has called off its armistice deal with the U.S. and threatened to take military action if the U.S. continues its military drills with South Korea. South Korea’s Major General Kim Yong-hyun said during a news conference that the North’s preparation appears more expansive than in previous years. Kim also said South Korea will retaliate if attacked.

True Life: Black Swan? Russian ballet dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko has confessed to ordering an acid attack that nearly blinded Bolshoi ballet company’s artistic director Sergei Filin on January 17. Dmitrichenko, who starred as the villains in Swan Lake and Ivan the Terrible, gave a list of his motives to police. A Bolshoi insider stated that the dancer was angry that his lover had not been chosen for leading roles. Did Dmitrichenko identify too closely with the characters he played? One of Filin’s aides commented:

“That Dmitrichenko constantly threatened everyone as though he really were Ivan the Terrible or (Swan Lake's) evil genius - roles he played with depth and clear pleasure ... is without doubt," said Dilyara Timergazina.

Nota Bene: Reuters photos of unrest in Egypt show action on the ground in areas beset by violent protest.

Standouts:

Cardinal sin - A fake bishop tried to crash a Vatican meeting and got surprisingly far. (Time)

‘Til new tax do us part? - Chinese couples seek divorce to exploit tax loophole. (Al Jazeera)

One million out of Syria - The United Nations announced that more than one million Syrians have fled the country. (Los Angeles Times)

Bilingual bunnies - Playboy has launched a Hebrew-language edition. (Ha’aretz)

Trim the squad- Short, fat traffic police banned in Hanoi. (BBC)

From the File:

  • U.S. warns Iran of more "isolation" in nuclear dispute
  • Bulgarian mayor resigns after man sets himself on fire
  •  Italy's Bersani seeks way forward after vote impasse
  •  Arab League discusses giving Syria's seat to opposition
  •  Kenyans await outcome of tight presidential vote
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