Supporters of the Venezuelan president,Â Hugo ChÃ¡vez, reacted with dismay and denial on Thursday to news he had cancer, but vowed to push forward his self-styled revolution while he recovered.
“This is a lie, ChÃ¡vez does not have cancer, I don’t know why he said it but it’s not true,” said Luis, a worker painting a wall in a downtown Caracas plaza.
“We don’t have to be afraid. Cancer is a disease that can be treated,” said Javier, a waiter. Neither gave surnames.
Supporters, who for two weeks had been condemning the cancer rumours as a smear campaign by the opposition, looked overwhelmed as they watchedÂ ChÃ¡vez’s speech.
ChÃ¡vez’s ministers came out immediately with a joint television appearance to pledge loyalty and unity.
“There is no time for sadness, but for reflection and bravery, the vice-president, ElÃas Jaua, said. “Unity is what is needed at this moment. Let’s show our support for our President ChÃ¡vez on the streets.”
Jaua said the ministers would “deepen” ChÃ¡vez’s socialist reforms during his absence.
And he urged ChÃ¡vez’s supporters to show their solidarity in massive street rallies called to commemorate 200 years of independence from Spain over the coming days.
Venezuelan state TV showed cabinet ministers and ChÃ¡vez supporters gathering at Plaza BolÃvar in the city centre, chanting “ChÃ¡vez, our friend, the people are with you.”
Fireworks could be heard in the west side of Caracas, where people on the street shouted: “He’s alive! He’s alive!”
Eva Golinger, a US lawyer and outspoken ChÃ¡vez supporter, said Venezuelans should celebrate ChÃ¡vez’s announcement that the cancerous cells were entirely removed.
“Comandante ChÃ¡vez is recovering and is very strong!! Everything will be cured, there is no doubt. He looks strong and everything has been removed,” she said on Twitter.
Golinder pointed out that other Latin American presidents including Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, and Paraguay’s president, Fernando Lugo, had successfully recovered from cancer.
Critics of ChÃ¡vez greeted the news with a combination of glee at the president’s ill health and optimism about the chances for the opposition, which has failed for over a decade to unseat him despite repeated national strikes, a botched coup and a recall referendum.
“This will lead to a transition of presidents. It’s perfect!” said Freddy Herrera, 25, an accountant, “because the revolution doesn’t work, because socialism is a lie.”
ChÃ¡vez’s detractors also flooded Twitter with criticism, questioning why the president did not disclose his condition despite insistence by the opposition.
To read more, visit:Â http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/01/chavez-cancer-diagnosis-venezuelans
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