Thousands of Venezuelans joined President Nicolas Maduro as he left the Miraflores Presidential Palace this past February 27 en route to the National Electoral Council (CNE), where he formally registered as a candidate for the May 20 elections.
Riding in an open-air truck with various members of his family and his cabinet, Maduro slowly made his way through the red-shirted crowds, greeting and embracing his supporters.
His registration came on the anniversary of the "Caracazo", a mass uprising in 1989 against the imposition of IMF-ordered price hikes, which was put down by the armed forces, leaving more than 3000 dead or disappeared.
Maduro has managed to unite the vast majority of the Venezuelan left-wing political parties behind his candidacy, securing the endorsements of the United Socialist Party (PSUV), the Communist Party (PCV), the Tupamaro Party, the Venezuelan Popular Unity Party (UPV), the Homeland for All Party (PPT), the Authentic Renovation Organisation (ORA), We Are Venezuela (Somos Venezuela), the Electoral Movement of the People (MEP), and Alliance for Change (APC).
Before arriving at the CNE headquarters in downtown Caracas, Maduro made a stop at the tomb of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, at the 4F Mountain Fortress where he paid homage to his "commander".
Maduro's formal registration with the electoral council is one of just six registrations (to date) from a diverse range of candidates, including opposition leader Henri Falcon, Pentecostal preacher Javier Bertucci, retired air force general and close Chavez ally Francisco Visconti, electrical engineer and independent leftist Reinaldo Quijada, as well as evangelical pastor and businessman Luis Ratti.
The mass rally comes as Washington has threatened to ramp up sanctions if the election goes ahead, floating the possibility of an oil embargo against the South American country. Over a dozen regional conservative governments have followed the US' lead in already declaring that they will not recognize the results of the upcoming elections.
Venezuela's electoral council has appealed for international accompaniment missions from the United Nations, CARICOM, and the African Congress so as to provide the electoral guarantees necessary for the process.