Venezuelan protesters seek 'Chavez on every corner'

Pro-government supporters demonstrate against opposition's removal of Hugo Chavez portraits from the National Assembly.

    Venezuelan protesters seek 'Chavez on every corner'
    Maduro's supporters gathered in front of portraits of Chavez and revolutionary hero Simon Bolivar [Reuters]

    Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has condemned the removal of portraits and photos of his predecessor from the National Assembly.

    The speaker of the newly installed parliament ordered them to be taken down, after the opposition's landslide victory in parliamentary elections in December.
     
    But pro-government protesters have been on the streets, calling for images of Chavez to be put up on every street corner.

    Venezuela swears in opposition-led assembly

    Jorge Rodriguez, the mayor of Caracas, gave the order at a rally on Thursday to protest the decision.

    Chavistas have been angered by a video playing non-stop on state media showing the Congress' new leader, Henry Ramos, cracking jokes while ordering workers to haul away a giant billboard of Chavez.

    "I don't want to see Chavez or Maduro," Ramos says in the video, shot from a mobile phone on his first day on the job.

    "Take it all to Miraflores, or the rubbish," he says, referring to the presidential palace.

    At the rally on Thursday outside the National Assembly in Plaza Bolivar, hundreds of government supporters dressed in red swore loyalty to Chavez and independence hero Simon Bolivar.

    One protester dressed up as Uncle Sam pulling the strings of a cut-out Ramos.

    "I have to defend their honour for my children, my grandchildren and great grandchildren," said one protester, 77-year-old Eva Prada, who held images of both Chavez and Bolivar.

    Maduro visited Chavez's mausoleum accompanied by the newly appointed cabinet to lend his support to the campaign.

    In a fiery speech before dozens of military officers, he called the removal of Bolivar's portrait from Congress the most-serious affront to the memory of "the Liberator" in the nearly 200 years since his death.

    He ordered that every military family be given pictures of Bolivar and Chavez to hang in their homes.

    "I don't know how each of us should react, in our hearts and minds, when the entire fatherland has been undeniably desecrated," Vladimir Padrino, the defence minister, told troops at the mausoleum, which is in a historic fort atop a Caracas slum.

    Chavez, who died in 2013 from cancer, is revered by millions of poor Venezuelans who benefited from social programmes like free housing and medical attention.

    A stencil of his eyes, on giant red billboards and spray-painted on buildings, is the most ubiquitous image in the country.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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