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Obama: Chavez death opens "new chapter" for Venezuela

The death today of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's popular but controversial president for the last 14 years, marks a "new chapter" in the country's history, President Obama said in a statement.

Chavez died following cancer treatments, ending a months-long period of speculation about his health. He was 58.

"At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez's passing," Mr. Obama said in a statement released Tuesday evening by the White House, "the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government.

"As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history," he continued, "the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights."

While a working relationship with Venezuela is preferred, though, administration officials told CBS News, the United States will continue to pursue its interests in South America with or without it. Following years of tension over Chavez's strongman ruling style, the officials said they have been discouraged by some behavior of Chavez's hand-picked successor, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro, including his expulsion of a U.S. Embassy official.

Alleging conspiracy to destabilize Venezuela, Maduro informed Air Attache Col. David Delmonico today he had 24 hours to leave the country. The White House said it sees the move as an attempt by Maduro to look strong and confrontational toward the United States.

Major Garrett contributed to this report.

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