Venezuelans swear loyalty to ChavezAgence France-Presse . Caracas
Thousands of Venezuelans fervently swore ‘absolute loyalty’ to Hugo Chavez Thursday in a giant rally for the cancer-stricken president on what was to have been his inauguration.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro led the crowd in the oath, which was repeated by roaring supporters of the absent leader, who packed central Caracas in a massive show of support at time of deep uncertainty over the country’s future.
‘Comandante, get better, because this people has sworn and is going to show absolute loyalty. So we have sworn. Long live Chavez!’ Maduro said.
The collective oath was taken at the end of a speech by Maduro that lavished praise on Chavez and his socialist revolution, and accused the opposition of harbouring desires for a coup.
He urged the police to closely watch what the opposition does, accusing them of ‘looking to stain this special moment in this life of our peoples.’
Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jets streaked the length of this mountain valley as allies from around the region took turns showering praise on Chavez and pledging their undying support.
A sea of red shirts and flags, the color of Chavez’s socialist movement, filled the avenue in front of the Miraflores presidential palace where participants were to take a symbolic oath for the 58-year-old.
The crowd delivered a booming rendition of the national anthem and roared with approval for the tributes from leftist leaders like Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Uruguay’s Jose Mujica and ousted Paraguayan leader Fernando Lugo.
‘There is a man who is fighting for his life, who is in your hearts,’ said Mujica. ‘But if tomorrow, he is no longer — unity, peace and work.’
It was the day’s most direct reference to the possibility that Chavez, who has been in a Cuban hospital and out of public view for a full month, may die.
Despite the turnout, the inauguration comes amid deep uncertainty here over the country’s future without Chavez, whose charismatic and domineering personality has held a vice-like grip over Venezuelan politics for 14 years.
As pro-Chavez crowds built outside the presidential palace, the opposition called for counter-demonstrations on January 23, the day Venezuela’s modern democratic era began in 1958 with the ouster of its last military dictatorship.
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