Thousands of supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez flooded into central Caracas on Thursday to participate in a rally called by the governing PSUV to support the ailing leftist leader on the day he was supported to be sworn in for another term.
Starting early in the morning, people from across the Andean nation gathered near the presidential palace to shout slogans supporting the leader and the Supreme Court ruling that the inauguration could be delayed until Chavez recovers.
The 58-year-old head of state, who won another six-year term in the Oct. 7 election, remains hospitalized in Cuba four weeks after undergoing his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months.
The Venezuelan government says the president is battling "complications stemming from a severe lung infection" that developed after his Dec. 11 operation in Havana.
Venezuela's Supreme Court said Wednesday that Chavez can delay his swearing-in without creating a constitutional vacuum and that Vice President Nicolas Maduro may remain head of the government during the president's absence.
"Today the people are on the streets to ensure (respect for) our Constitution, our commander and our vote. We're not voting so the opposition can rule, here the revolution and its people rules," read a poster prepared by Rufina Sosa.
Near the gate of the presidential palace, Alis Bazan, a taxi driver who at first glance could almost pass for the president's double in his trademark red shirt and beret, told Efe that he came from the central state of Carabobo to support Chavez.
Three Latin American presidents - Jose Mujica of Uruguay, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Bolivia's Evo Morales - traveled to Caracas for Thursday's rally, while more than a dozen other nations sent their foreign ministers. EFE