Sans Chavez, inauguration goes on
CARACAS — Nothing shows the extent of Hugo Chavez's grip on power quite as clearly as his absence from his own inauguration on Thursday.
Venezuela gathered foreign allies and tens of thousands of exuberant supporters to celebrate a new term for a leader too ill to return home for a real swearing-in.
In many ways, it looked like the sort of rally the president has staged dozens of times throughout his 14 years in power: The leader's face beamed from shirts, signs and banners. Adoring followers danced and chanted in the streets to music blaring from speakers mounted on trucks. Nearly everyone wore red, the color of his Bolivarian Revolution movement, as the swelling crowd spilled from the main avenue onto side streets.
But this time, there was no Chavez on the balcony of Miraflores Palace.
It was the first time in Venezuela's history that a president has missed his inauguration, said Elias Pino Iturrieta, a prominent historian. As for the symbolic street rally, Pino said, “perhaps it's the first chapter of what they call Chavismo without Chavez.”
Yet in the crowd outside the presidential palace, many insisted that Chavez was still present in their hearts, testifying to his success in forging a tight bond of identity with millions of poor Venezuelans.
The crowd chanted: “We are all Chavez!” Some wore paper cutouts of the yellow, blue and red presidential sash to show they were symbolically swearing in themselves in, in Chavez's place.
Those in the crowd raised their hands and repeated an oath after Vice President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's designated successor: “I swear by the Bolivarian Constitution that I will defend the presidency of commander Chavez in the street, with reason, with the truth!”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
- Tunisian democracy group wins Nobel Peace Prize
- Russia missiles fall short of Syria, land onIran soil
- U.S. warships may ply South China Sea
- Nobel laureate Alexievich of Belarus elevates world view of journalism
- Svetlana Alexievich of Belarus wins Nobel literature prize
- EU hardens stance on immigration
- Eastern European gangs smuggle nuclear materials, seek terrorist clients
- Stabbing attacks by Palestinians spread in Israel
- Mecca pilgrimage death toll at 1,399
- Pope urges bishops to reaffirm church’s stance on marriage as synod opens
- Car bombs across Iraq kill 56