Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Chavez supporters turn out in force

Supporter of Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez hold up an image of him during a march in Caracas, Venezuela (AP)

A march by thousands of Venezuelans to mark the country's bicentennial quickly turned into a show of support for ailing President Hugo Chavez, who remained in Cuba recovering from the removal of a cancerous tumour.

The president's red-clad supporters waved flags, beat drums and chanted "Long live Chavez!" They also displayed signs reading "Get well soon, commander" and "Venezuela is with you".

A message on Mr Chavez's Twitter account said he was doing his "daily exercises and receiving that bath of love" from the demonstrators in Caracas.

"It's the best medicine!" he said in the message.

Mr Chavez's Twitter account posted four messages within three hours, including one referring to the "Bolivarian youth" marching on the streets: "I see you, I hear you."

Vice president Elias Jaua addressed the crowd, shouting: "We will be victorious, commander!"

The mood was energetic and festive as thousands waved their hands in the air, yet also tempered by concerns for the future.

"I feel very bad, with a big emptiness inside for what could happen in the country," said Carlos Rojas, a 48-year-old Chavez supporter and lawyer. "I'm praying for him to be better soon."

Venezuelan state television showed new video footage of Mr Chavez chatting with his foreign minister and taking a stroll hand-in-hand with two of his daughters, Rosa and Maria. He wore a sports jersey with his name on the back, holding his daughters' hands as they walked along a concrete path surrounded by grass and palm trees.

Mr Chavez has lost weight following his surgeries and appeared thin, though energetic and animated as he reminisced with foreign minister Nicolas Maduro about old friends.

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