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Thousands of Venezuelans march in support of Chavez


08:00, January 24, 2013

CARACAS, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of supporters of Venezuela' s ailing President Hugo Chavez flooded the streets of the capital Caracas Wednesday in support of their leader, who has been hospitalized in Cuba for over a month.

Chavez's followers set out from three different locations to converge in the downtown area's Jan. 23 district, in honor of Democracy Day.

The cheering supporters wore the signature red color of Venezuela's ruling United Socialist Party and carried banners that read "We are all Chavez."

Wednesday's rally is the second of its kind this year. Chavez was reelected to another six-year term on Oct. 7, but was unable to attend his inauguration on Jan. 10 as he is convalescing in Havana from a fourth cancer operation conducted on Dec. 11.

The missed inauguration was turned into a mass celebration of Chavez's government, with thousands of his supporters streaming into the streets and leaders of friendly governments traveling to Caracas to express their solidarity.

His government has decided to postpone the swearing in till his condition improves, and the decision was upheld by the Supreme Court of Justice.

Venezuela's opposition forces, however, claim the move is unconstitutional and have been campaigning to have the president of the National Assembly name an interim leader.

Opponents also rallied, but in a different part of the city on Wednesday, where celebration is held each year to mark the fall in 1958 of Venezuelan dictator Marco Perez Jimenez.

The prolonged absence of Chavez has sparked constant speculation in the Venezuelan and international press about his true state of health.

Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said Tuesday that "no date is set for his return yet," although he added that the latest medical reports were "very encouraging."

Bolivian President Evo Morales, a close ally of Chavez, told reporters Tuesday that the Venezuelan leader is undergoing " physiotherapy" to speed up his return to the country.

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