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Venezuelans on edge amid shifting news on Chavez

By JORGE RUEDA and IAN JAMES Published: January 2, 2013
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Venezuelans rang in 2013 as usual with fireworks raining down all over the capital of Caracas. But some of Chavez's supporters had long faces as they gathered in Bolivar Plaza on Monday night holding pictures of the president. A government-sponsored New Year's Eve celebration there had been called off.

Chavez's supporters instead strummed guitars and read poetry in his honor in the plaza, singing along with a recording of the president belting out the national anthem.

Chavez has been in office since 1999 and was re-elected in October, three months after he announced that his latest tests showed him to be cancer-free. If he dies or is unable to continue in office, the Venezuelan Constitution says a new election should be held within 30 days.

Before his operation, Chavez acknowledged he faced risks and designated Maduro as his successor, telling supporters they should vote for the vice president if a new presidential election was necessary.

Bolivian President Evo Morales sent his greetings to Chavez in a New Year's Eve address.

“I'm very sorry that our Latin American brother Hugo Chavez, our … anti-imperialist comrade, a revolutionary, is facing such a difficult situation,” Morales said, wishing Chavez “a lot of strength, a lot of energy so that he can soon recover.”

Morales made a quick stop in Havana last week to visit Chavez, but didn't refer to that trip.

Venezuela's government released a statement Tuesday saying that Chavez and his government congratulate Cuba and President Raul Castro on the 54th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban revolution. The statement said that today “the circumstances of the fight for life have united more than ever before the Bolivarian and Cuban Revolutions.”

Chavez's socialist-inspired Bolivarian Revolution movement has long had close ties to Cuba and Chavez's mentor Fidel Castro. Chavez has undergone much of his cancer treatment in Cuba, where he originally announced he had been diagnosed with the illness.

During Chavez's presidency, the Cuban government has aided its ally by sending thousands of doctors and nurses to Venezuela along with other specialists, providing free health care to the poor while the South American country has shipped oil to Cuba under preferential terms in return.

The Venezuelan government said in its statement that Cuba “can count on the Bolivarian Revolution to repay all the love and solidarity that it has lavished on our nation in its struggle to be every day freer and sovereign. Today we all say with Chavez, long live Fidel! Long live Raul! Long live Cuba and its revolution!”


Read the rest of the story on Oklahoman.com
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