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Caracas - Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Venezuela's capital on Sunday, demanding the government provide complete details about the health of ailing President Hugo Chavez. At the same time, Chavez supporters staged their own rally in the city.
Protesters waving Venezuelan flags chanted “Tell the Truth!” as they marched through eastern Caracas. They accused government officials of keeping from the public a full account of Chavez's condition.
“They don't tell us the truth,” complained Mildred Moreau, a 64-year-old woman who said Chavez isn't healthy enough to govern the country. “We feel that they are trying to trick us.”
The protest was staged a day after Vice-President Nicolas Maduro said Chavez has been receiving chemotherapy while recovering from a severe respiratory infection.
Chavez underwent cancer-related surgery on December 11 in Cuba and has not been seen or heard from since, except for several “proof of life” photographs released on February 15 before he returned to Venezuela.
Officials have sent mixed signals about Chavez's condition, sometimes saying he's recovering and at other times saying he's battling for his life.
Sunday's marchers joined university students who have chained themselves together near a Supreme Court office while also demanding a full account of Chavez's health and urging justices decide if he's healthy enough to remain in office.
“We are going to stay here until they tell the truth, until they give an explanation about his state of health and say if he's in a condition to govern,” said Johan Gomez, a 23-year-old university student with chains wrapped around his arms and waist.
On the other side of the city, government supporters gathered in front of a stage to listen to pro-Chavez musicians and demonstrate their support for the socialist leader.
“Here is the youth that represents the future of the fatherland,” said pro-Chavez governor Tareck El Aissami.
Referring to opposition-sided students, El Aissami said: “They represent the past.” - Sapa-AP