Venezuelans mark one year since Chavez's death

March 7, 2014

Venezuela has commemorated the one year anniversary of the death of former president Hugo Chavez with rallies across the country.

Supporters of the late socialist president turned out in hundreds of thousands for official commemoration services.

In a show of support for the revolutionary process Chavez led, in Caracas crowds in red flooded the city centre for military and civil parades. Supporters of social programs launched under Chavez, along with social movements aligned with the government of President Nicolas Maduro also rallied in the capital.

Representatives of neighbouring left-wing governments attended the commemorations, including Bolivian President Evo Morales and Cuban President Raul Castro. There were also representatives the governments of Ecuador, Argentina, Suriname and others.

Rallies in honour of Chavez’s memory took place across the country. In the Andean city of Merida, several thousand people marched to the central Plaza Bolivar. They chanted slogans such as “Chavez lives, the struggle goes on” and “this government will continue”, in response to the opposition marching chant “this government is going to fall”.

Commemorations included the premiere of a new documentary by Oliver Stone on Chavez's life. Titled Mi Amigo Chavez (“My Friend Chavez”), the documentary aired on TeleSUR on the evening of March 5.

Maduro, Chavez's successor who won presidential elections last April, described the late head of state as representative of the “greatest democratisation of political life in the 200 years of the [Venezuelan] republic”.

“Never before in history was there a leader who authentically loved the people, who loved the humble and respected the poor,” he said. “It was a vindication of the poor and the workers, their rights, their education, culture and dignity.”

However, elsewhere in the capital, right-wing opposition demonstrations continued, with barricades blocking sections of the city's wealthy east side.

Roadblocks began as early as 5am in some parts of the capital, with burning garbage being used to bring morning traffic to a halt in some areas.

Along with peaceful protests, Venezuela has also seen a slew of violence and vandalism.

Despite the ongoing disturbances, education minister Hector Rodriguez on March 4 called for academic institutions, including schools and universities, to re-open after a six-day holiday for carnival celebrations. He denied rumours that classes would be suspended for an extra day as part of the March 5 commemorations.

Maduro said the opposition was exacerbating political divisions, and “attacking with greater force”.

“Venezuela is having a battle for stability,” Maduro said. He also hit out at the United States for interfering in Venezuela's domestic affairs.

“I will respond with strength and force to any attempt by any American government to meddle in the internal affairs of Venezuela,” Maduro.

[Abridged from Venezuela Analysis.]

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