Chavez supporters, foes stage anniversary rallies

January 24, 2011 02:26

CARACAS, Venezuela — Allies and adversaries of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took to the streets of the capital by the thousands Sunday, staging rival demonstrations to commemorate the 53rd anniversary of Venezuela's democracy.

Opposition supporters gathered along an avenue in eastern Caracas and chanted anti-government slogans while waving red-yellow-and-blue Venezuelan flags and banners labeling Chavez a despot. Many of the president's critics expressed concerns that Chavez is amassing power and cracking down on dissent.

"In a country where dissidence is constantly attacked, there's no true democracy," said Virginia Zamora, who helped organize the anti-Chavez rally.

Chavez's supporters staged their own demonstration to defend their leader, disputing claims that the former paratrooper popularly known as "El Comandante" is becoming increasingly authoritarian as he attempts to steer this politically divided South American country toward socialism.

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