Tens of thousands of supporters of the late Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez, have flooded the streets of Venezuela to mark the first anniversary of his death.
On Wednesday, the Venezuelan government commemorated the anniversary with a civic-military parade in Caracas.
The parade was attended by Bolivian President Evo Morales, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Cuban President Raul Castro among others.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro presided over the parade. He then led the crowds to the military headquarters in Caracas where Chavez is buried.
“This anniversary is enormously sad. There’s not a single day I don’t remember Hugo,” Chavez’ cousin, Guillermo Frias, 60, said from Los Rastrojos village in rural Barinas state, adding, “He changed Venezuela forever and we cannot go back. Maduro also is a poor man, like us. He’s handling things fine.”
“This year has been one to remember our commander and then rebuild our revolution. First we were in shock, but we had to breathe deep and keep fighting,” said Marisol Aponte, a Chavista and teacher from a poor area of west Caracas.
“Chavez left a legacy so we can continue. Maduro is following the same path as Chavez, nothing much has changed. The people are behind him,” she noted.
Chavez ruled Venezuela for 14 years before giving in to cancer after a long fight. He survived a US-backed coup in 2002.
The former Venezuelan president’s humble roots, anti-imperial spirit and attention to the country’s poorest made him a hero for many.
The anniversary came amid opposition protests that have left 18 dead.
The opposition criticizes the government for the country’s high crime rate and economic hardships, claiming that its policies have led to a shortage of essential goods and high inflation.
However, many in Venezuela believe that violence will not help the Latin American country resolve its political issues.