Tens of thousands of Venezuelans packed the centre of Caracas on the day that Hugo Chavez, cancer-stricken and hospitalized in Cuba for over a month, had to take office for another six years and ended the rally with hands up in a massive oath of loyalty to the president.
“I promise on the Bolivarian constitution that I will defend the presidency of Commander Chavez in the streets, with reason, with truth and with the force and intelligence of a people free from the yoke of the bourgeoisie!” cried out Vice-president Nicolas Maduro from the Miraflores Palace while the chorus of thousands of followers repeated every line.
The popular oath ceremony closed the rally organized by the government and which also included the presidents of Uruguay, Jose Mujica; Bolivia, Evo Morales; Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega and representatives from 27 Latinamerican and Caribbean countries, who attended in solidarity with President Chavez.
The undisputed Venezuelan leader re-re-elected last 7 October was unable to take office on Thursday before the National Assembly as indicates the constitution. The Supreme Justice Tribunal (TSJ) in a statement on Wednesday ruled that Chavez can take the oath before the TSJ when he in conditions to do so. Another option contemplated by the constitution and which in this case was interpreted as extensive to the whole government based on the ‘administrative continuity’ of re-election.
During the four-hour long event Maduro a former union leader from the underground workers and who Chavez anointed as his political successor if the president was not fit to rule, made a passionate speech from a stage mounted next to the presidential palace.
“Today, a month ago President Chavez underwent surgery… Now from here we are telling him keep on your battle that here you have a Bolivarian government and a revolutionary people supporting you”, said Maduro.
A month ago before leaving for Cuba for his fourth cancer operation, Chavez said farewell to fellow Venezuelans with a “life for ever” remark. But since then the leader who was a daily face in national screens for the last fourteen years was not seen or heard again.
The latest medical report on Monday read by the Maduro caretaker administration said that the president’s condition was “stationary” following respiratory insufficiency.
Nevertheless the sea of scarlet red, the colour which identifies Chavismo, started singing that with “Chavez and Maduro, the people feel safe”. The Vice president and officials in the stage then replied, ‘Uh, ah, Chavez is not leaving” while Russian Sukhoi fighter planes crossed the blue sky.
“I am Chavez” yelled the thousands of Chavez followers concentrated in from of Miraflores, most of them with red bonnets and red shirts and in some cases with a paper presidential sash with the Venezuelan colours.
Maduro then accused the opposition of looking for “one death, two deaths” so as “to fill the streets of Venezuela with blood in the demonstrations that they have announced for later in the month”. He was referring to the peaceful protest marches planned by several sectors of the opposition to counter the current rally.
“Today the government of Chavez begins a new period of battles” said Maduro inviting all those “who have their heart in the motherland and still are far from the revolution, join us; your are welcome, because the true union of the Venezuelan people we can say has been one of the great achievements of Chavez”.
“We are militant soldiers of our Commander Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias”, yelled Maduro to the roaring crowd.
However the rally evolved peacefully and with relief following Wednesday’s ruling by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, STJ, saying that Chavez despite not having taken office, should not be removed and his government continues operating and working. The decision was accepted by opposition leader Henrique Capriles.
However a protest march has been organized by opposition lawmakers for January 23, the day which recalls the ousting of Dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez back in 1958. The motto for the event is “the reestablishment and defence of the constitution”.
Chavez has permission from the National Assembly, under control of his party to remain absent from the country “all the time he needs to address his illness”. The TSJ also rejected declaring the “temporary absence” of the president, as demanded by the opposition and which is limited to six months after which fresh elections must be held.