Big Turn Out at Celebration of Venezuela's Chavez's Fifth Year in Office

Hundreds of thousands marched through Caracas to celebrate Chavez's fifth year in office and the opposition's alleged failure to collect signatures to trigger a recall referendum.

By Venezuelanalysis.com
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Caracas, Dec 8 (Venezuelanalysis.com) Supporters of President Chavez came out in big numbers on Saturday  December 6 to celebrate his fifth year in office and to celebrate what they claim is another electoral victory for the Venezuelan leader.

Chavistas at the Bolivar Avenue, downtown Caracas, celebrating President Chavez's five years in office.
Photo: Ministry of Information and Communications

Chavez won the 1999 elections with the biggest percentage of votes in the history of the country's democratic rule. After a new constitution was drafted by an elected Constituency Assembly, and approved on a national referendum, Chavez won again in new elections. He is half way through his 6 year term.

The march started at Caracas' far east side, passed through upper-class neighboorhoods where anti-Chavez sentiment runs high, and ended at the downtown Bolivar avenue, where Chavez gave a speech.

Chavistas at the Bolivar Avenue, downtown Caracas, celebrating President Chavez's five years in office.
Photo: Carlos Rios

Celebrating the alleged opposition failure

Chavez and his supporters claim that the low turnout rate at the opposition-organized signature collection drive to request a recall referendum on the President is evidence of their failure to collect the required 2.4 million signatures. Thousands of irregularities reported are also used by the government to claim that the opposition committed fraud during the signature drive.

Supporters of President Chavez celebrate their "take over" of the opposition's main gathering place in the upper-class Altamira neigboorhood.
Photo: Martín Sánchez - Venezuelanalysis.com

The opposition apparent demoralization, and their leadership's lack of capacity to mobilize their followers, was evident in the chavistas' march through opposition strongholds in affluent eastern Caracas. Supporters of Chavez marched through the Francia Square in the Altamira neighborhood where rebel military officers gathered for more than a year demanding Chavez's resignation. The Altamira square became the opposition's main gathering place, but in recent months the number of people meeting there has plummeted. Police investigations have revealed that the rebel military officers who led the Altamira square camp are connected with the killings of several of their fellow officers who also gathered there, and also with the terrorist attacks to the Spanish and Colombian consulates last February.

Supporters of President Chavez celebrate their "take over" of the opposition's main gathering place in the upper-class Altamira neigboorhood.
Photo: Martín Sánchez - Venezuelanalysis.com

"This is a historical event for us," said Dr. Rodrigo Chaves, who is the national organizer for the pro-Chavez Bolivarian Circles neighborhood-based groups. Chaves stayed for more than half an hour at the Plaza trying to prevent acts of vandalism by the pro-Chavez demonstrators. Chavistas stayed at the square for almost two hours, as if they had reclaimed a lost territory. Neighbors looked at the Plaza in shock, as walls were spray-painted with pro-Chavez slogans, and chavistas celebrated their victory.

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