Tens of thousands of supporters of the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez took to the streets on Wednesday to mark the one-year anniversary of his death.
Chavistas dressed in red gathered for rallies in Caracas and elsewhere to honour the socialist leader, whose 14-year rule won him the adoration of many of Venezuela’s poorest.
“President Chavez gave us so much,” Luisa De Arcos, a local councillor from the poor community of Petare told Al Jazeera. “He trusted us – the people – and we trusted him.”
Irene Hernandez had tears in her eyes when she spoke about the former president. “He created food security programmes for the poor, invested in education and health centres and improved out lives a lot,” she told Al Jazeera.
A year after Chavez died of cancer, his self-proclaimed “son”, the incumbent President Nicolas Maduro, has faced the biggest challenge to his rule.
Anti-government demonstrations have led to clashes with security forces and 18 deaths.
Maduro used his speech commemorating Chavez’s death to cut diplomatic ties with Panama, after the Central American country urged the Organisation of American States to convene a meeting to “analyse” recent protests in Venezuela.
“I have decided to break off ties and freeze business relations with Panama,” he said.
“I’m not going to accept anyone conspiring against our country,” Maduro said, after accusing Panama President Ricardo Martinelli of provoking foreign intervention in Venezuela.