TODAY

TODAY   |  March 06, 2013

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez dies at 58

One of the world’s most flamboyant leaders lost his two-year battle with cancer on Tuesday, ending 14 years of a tumultuous and often bitterly divisive socialist reign. NBC’s Mark Potter reports.

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>>> we move on now to the death of venezuelan president hugo chavez . he was a polarizing and outspoken figure. u.s. officials are wondering how his passing will impact relations with the oil giant. nbc's mark potter is in caracas this morning. mark, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, sav savannah. the mood in caracas is somber as venezuelans begin seven days of mourning. he had been ill and news of his condition had been worsening, many here were still surprised when he died, in part because of his larger than life personality. venezuela 's vice president was clearly emotional as he announced the death of hugo chavez . within minutes, crowds started gathering in the streets of caracas , chanting chavez lives and the struggle continues. many were visibly shaken by the news. while in miami, venezuelan exiles took to the streets with a very different reaction. president obama reaffirmed the u.s. interest in a relationship with venezuela . chavez embraced cuba's fidel castro . in a speech to the u.n. general assembly , he had called then president george bush the devil.

>> yesterday the devil came here.

>> reporter: elections to be called within 30 days . officials in washington will be watching closely. venezuela has the world's second largest known oil reserves behind saudi arabia . as the fourth largest supplier of oil to the u.s. has a hand in every american gas tank . experts don't expect any immediate impact from chavez 's death but say change could come down the road.

>> this certainly ushers in a new opportunity for the people of venezuela .

>> reporter: former congresswoman is guarded.

>> will it be the dawn of a new democracy? that remains to be seen.

>> reporter: today, chavez 's body will be brought to the military academy where he was trained and he will be buried on friday. a man who clearly made a dramatic mark on latin america . matt?

>> mark potter , thank you very