Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez may have helped his party avoid in-fighting by naming his vice president to be his chosen successor.
The passions that led the president's followers to take streets after his election day victory just weeks before took a different form after Saturday's announcement that the president's cancer had returned. Despite the presence of marching bands and attempts to revive popular campaign chants, many at the rally remained subdued ahead of his flight to Havana today.
"We’re here in a demonstration of spirit and faith to support our president who is fighting this terrible disease,” says William Hernandez, a library administrator.
The firebrand leader has been shuttling back and forth between Havana and Caracas to receive cancer treatments since last June. In a signal that the situation has grown more serious, Chávez named his successor Saturday: Vice President Nicolás Maduro. The nod to his vice president, a former trade unionist and minister of foreign of affairs, reverberated across both sides of the political divide, as many Venezuelans now believe the end may be near for their leader.
"Of course we support [Maduro], he's a 'young, well-prepared leader,'" says Ricardo Gómez, a chemical engineer, echoing the president's endorsement at the rally.