Thousands of Venezuelans on Sunday took to the streets of Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, to show both support and opposition to President Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian government he heads.
A man with the Venezuelan flag painted on his face attends a protest organized by students and opposers to the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, capital of Venezuela, on March 3, 2013. Protestors demanded information about Chavez' state of health. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was hospitalized at the Carlos Arvelo Military Hospital since Feb. 18, according to the local press. [Xinhua/Mauricio Valenzuela]
Dressed in mostly red and carrying signs with slogans like "I am Chavez" and "Youths with Chavez", the youths supporting Chavez began their demonstrations at early hours of Sunday.
The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) outlined on its website that the march is a "representation of the young patriot" and advocate for "national unity and full governance that our country now enjoys" to support the ailing president.
"Chavez's Youth expressed themselves in a mobilization to Caracas in defense of the revolution and support commander Chavez, and Vice President, Nicolas Maduro," said one of the participants interviewed by the national TV broadcaster VTV.
The demonstration on Sunday shows that Venezuelans will not stand aside as "there are committed youths, who are clear from the historical moment we are living, are ready to stop any attempt of destabilization," said the PSUV.
Meanwhile, the anti-Chavez youth protesters on Sunday also gathered under the slogan "tell the truth", marching through Caracas to demand "the truth" about the health of Chavez.
The "March for Truth" was scheduled for 10 a.m. (1430 GMT) at Plaza Brion Chacaito, downtown Caracas. On reaching the end of the demonstration, the students demanded that Maduro show evidence that Chavez can govern the country, saying that they will continue their protest until they know the truth.
The National Assembly Deputy, Richard White, gave his support to the students. "Long live the students," said the senator, while Congresswoman Maria Corina Machado said that "there is a people that do not bend your head" and will ensure that the forthcoming elections are imminent and transparent.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan Penal Forum spokesman, Alfredo Romero, said that students simply amplify a question asked by all Venezuelans: What is the state of health of the President?
Chavez, 58, has been in power for 14 years. Last October, he was re-elected to a third six-year term, but could not be sworn in as scheduled on Jan. 10 due to his health problems.
After seeking medical treatment for 70 days in Cuba, he came back to his country late last month.
Yet he has been unable to appear before the public since then except in a number of pictures disclosed by the government which were taken in Cuba, showing that he was lying in bed in the company of his two daughters.
The Venezuelan opposition has called for the president to appear or resign, if he can not continue to rule. The government, which insists that Chavez still in charge, accuses the opposition of spreading rumors and trying to "destabilize" the country, taking advantage of the illness of president.