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Venezuelan folk singer Simon Diaz dies at 85

Wednesday - 2/19/2014, 3:46pm  ET

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 1998 file photo, Venezuelan singer and composer Simon Diaz, left, raises his glass in a toast to Venezuelan President Rafael Caldera, center, during a party for the leader's 82nd birthday at Miraflores, in Caracas, Venezuela. Diaz celebrated the president's birthday with a song. The 85-year-old musician, actor and director died after a long undisclosed illness in Caracas, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, announced his daughter Bettsimar Diaz. (AP Photo/Jose Caruci, File)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan folk singer-songwriter Simon Diaz has died at age 85, prompting an outpouring of mourning in the country that considered the man known as "Uncle Simon" to be a national treasure.

His daughter Bettsimar Diaz confirmed his death on her Twitter account, but gave no details.

Diaz's most often-performed song is "Caballo Viejo," which translates as "Old Horse." It was one of more than 200 songs he composed while recording 70 albums. His popularity grew as he hosted a children's television show and appeared in five films.

Both the leftist government and its opponents in the bitterly divided nation paid homage to the singer on Wednesday.

Education Minister Hector Rodriguez says a song in honor of Diaz will be performed in all Venezuelan schools on Thursday.

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