Thousands of members of both Hugo Chávez’ Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) and the opposition are marching in Caracas today in simultaneous demonstrations since January 23 marks the end of Venezuela’s 1945-1958 military dictatorship. However, this year the date has acquired a new meaning for each side of the political spectrum. For members of the PSUV, today’s demonstration is an opportunity to show their solidarity with Chávez, who is recovering from cancer surgery in Cuba. Meanwhile, the opposition plans to protest the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s January 8 resolution to delay the president’s inauguration, a decision they say is unconstitutional.
Venezuelan Communications and Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said yesterday that Hugo Chávez recently met in Cuba with Venezuela’s newly-appointed foreign minister, Elías Jaua. Still, great uncertainty surrounds the question of when Chávez will return to Venezuela. More than a month has passed since the president’s last public appearance, which was prior to his cancer surgery in mid-December.
Vice President of the National Assembly and leader of the PSUV Darío Vivas said that Chavismo will march today “out of respect and solidarity” with Chávez and his delicate health situation. For Marino Gonzalez, adjunct secretary of the Venezuelan opposition umbrella group known as the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática—MUD,“this is an opportunity for Venezuelans to defend their Constitution and to open the door for democracy in the country.”
Beginning around 10:00 am local time (9:30 am EST), Chávez supporters assembled at three points in the city—Colegio de Ingenieros, Los Símbolos and Propatria—while the opposition congregated in Parque Miranda. Major streets in Caracas are closed for today’s demonstrations.