CARACAS -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told thousands of his supporters Wednesday that any opposition move against him and his government is bound to fail, as Defense Minister Jose Vicente Rangel said the opposition march was proof of democracy in the country. Carlos Ortega, leader of Venezuelan Workers Confederation [CTV] and a staunch opponent of Mr. Chavez, led tens of thousands of opposition supporters to the National Assembly.
The rival marches on Caracas took place on the 13th anniversary of the 1989 "Caracazo" riots that erupted following an International Monetary Fund-backed fuel price hike. Hundreds of protestors who descended on Caracas were killed by security forces dispatched by exiled President Carlos Andres Perez, whom Mr. Chavez tried to overthrow in 1992.
Mr. Chavez, who vowed to plow forward with his "social revolution," faces a growing number of opposition protestors, public demands from four military officers for him to resign, a rebellion within the state-owned oil firm, and criticism from the Roman Catholic Church officials whom he has ridiculed.
Mr. Rangel, who has repeatedly denied any widespread unhappiness in the military, said Washington's rejection of a coup as a tool to oust Mr. Chavez considerably reduced the clout of "coup participants."
In related developments, Moody's downgraded investors' outlook on Venezuela to negative from stable, citing capital flight and political uncertainties.
Reporting on persistent rumors about marital problems inside the palace, El Universal newspaper today quotes Judge Ofelia Russian as saying that First Lady Marisabel Rodriguez de Chavez has not filed for divorce, but that she asked for, and was granted, protection for her children, citing risks of instability at the residence.