CARACAS (TIP): With cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez hospitalized in Cuba, thousands of flag-waving Venezuelans in red shirts filled the streets of Caracas on Thursday to inaugurate his new term without him. Bands played anthems from street-side stages as people poured out of buses to make their way on foot toward the Miraflores presidential palace for a symbolic swearing-in of the people in place of Chavez, who is too sick to take the oath of office. “I love the president,” said Pedro Brito, a 60-year-old law professor, in a red T-shirt with slogan “I am Chavez.” “He has done a lot for poor people, the ones who had no place to sleep or food to eat. He has shown us how to love the country.”
Vice President Nicolas Maduro hosted a meeting of leftist Latin America presidents and other foreign representatives who have come to show support for the Chavez government in a period of deep uncertainty. The supreme court cleared the ailing Chavez to indefinitely postpone his swearing-in and said his existing administration could remain in office until he is well enough to take the oath. It was the last legal hurdle to a government plan for resolving the vacuum created by Chavez’s illness that met fierce resistance from the opposition, which had argued it was unconstitutional.