‘Chavistas’ take to the streets

Chavez supporters celebrate the Venezuelan president’s referendum win.

Thousands gathered outside the presidential palace to celebrate Chavez’s win [EPA]

Fireworks filled the skies over Caracas for a second time on Sunday as Venezuelans rushed onto the streets to celebrate the victory of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s president, in his battle to run for the presidency again.

Thousands of people gathered outside the presidential palace in the centre of city to pay tribute to the Venezuelan leader, who won a referendum on term limits for elected officials by 54 per cent to 46.

And across the Venezuelan capital, open-topped trucks packed with Chavez supporters cruised the streets of the capital, horns blaring.

Dozens of “Chavistas” clad in red t-shirts also patrolled the city, revving their engines and saluting those on the streets.

Most were young, but there were also a number of older Venezuelans, some holding red flags or carrying posters of the successful “si” campaign.

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In the central district of Chacao, dozens had gathered at a junction to cheer cars, motorcycles and trucks packed with fellow Chavista’s as they drove past.

Elsewhere, a crowd huddled round a television set to hear Chavez deliver his victory speech.

And for many the mood was one of unadulterated joy.

“I’m 100 per cent happy and excited,” said Marie Montiloa, a single mother of three from Barinas, Chavez’s home state in western Venezuela.

“The president gave us education, taught us how to read and how to write, and helped us open our eyes to what was happening in the world.”

Others raised what had been a key issue in the referendum – whether the popular social programmes that have helped millions of the poorest Venezuelans would continue, and in what form.

Jesus Capathei, an airline worker wearing a baseball cap with a red star emblazoned on it, spoke passionately about how he had been given new opportunities during Chavez’s time in office.

“Chavez gave me the opportunity to study – I couldn’t afford to study but now I am planning to enrol in university to study law or journalism.”

But others highlighted the work the Venezuelan president needs to do if he is to win the elections he now has the right to once again stand in.

Chanir Lopez, a 29-year-old social worker, said: “Its not all about Chavez winning. Its about beginning to work to achieve what the people need.”

“We haven’t gained anything from Chavez as everyone in my family has a job, but the important thing is that people in the barrios and people in countryside get the help they need.”

But most were simply happy to celebrate, and a day that had begun with fireworks calling the citizens of Caracas out to vote ended the same way.

Source : Al Jazeera


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