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Venezuela plans show of support for ailing Chavez

By The Associated Press

This article was published January 10, 2013 at 7:45 a.m.

— Venezuela’s government has organized what seems an alternate inauguration outside the presidential palace Thursday and is hosting regional leaders in an unusual show of support for ailing President Hugo Chavez, whose swearing-in ceremony has been indefinitely postponed.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro urged supporters to gather on a street outside Miraflores Palace to demonstrate solidarity with Chavez, who remains in Cuba fighting complications after cancer surgery and hasn’t spoken publicly or been seen in more than a month.

“Everyone to the street,” Maduro said at a televised Cabinet meeting Wednesday night. “We’re going to have a great function in honor of President Chavez.”

Leaders from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean were invited, as they normally would be for a formal inauguration.

President Jose Mujica of Uruguay arrived Wednesday, and other presidents expected to attend included Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega.

Maduro said heads of state, foreign ministers and other officials from 19 countries had arrived in Caracas.

The vice president, whom Chavez designated his chosen successor last month, said that even though it wasn’t an official swearing-in, Thursday’s event still marks the start of a new term for the president after his re-election in October.

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