Chavez remains hospitalized. He's recovering from complicated cancer surgery. It's his fourth in 18 months.
His scheduled January 10 inauguration was postponed. Venezuelans turned out en masse. Tens of thousands gathered outside Caracas' Palacio de Miraflores. It's Chavez's official workplace.
Many others rallied throughout the capital. Red-shirted supporters were everywhere. Sound trucks aired Chavez campaign music.
People danced. The mood was celebratory. Air Force jets flew overhead. Vendors sold Bolivarian memorabilia.
Chavez and Simon Bolivar photos were displayed. Their images adorned shirts. Signs read "I am Chavez." "Chavez is the heart of the people." Other Chavistas expressed support their way.
"Today we are all Chavez," people said. They symbolically took the oath of office in his absence.
Chavismo without Chavez expressed mass support in his absence. A recording aired him singing the national anthem. He ended saying "Long live the Bolivarian Revolution."
"Who said Chavez is absent," former Paraguay President Fernando Lugo said. Obama conspired with right-wing Paraguayan politicians to oust him. Junta power replaced him. Venezuelans are resolute not to let it happen to them.
Evo Morales urged more popular support. "My friends," he said, "the situation of our brother Hugo Chavez is not only a concern of the Venezuelan people, but of all those who are a part of this struggle."
"The best tribute and solidarity with Chavez is unity. Let's keep unity between our countries...This gathering of Chavez supporters is really enviable." It reflects Venezuelans' "capacity for mobilization."
Other leaders and dignitaries expressed similar support. Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, called Thursday's rally "the largest concentration of people (he'd) ever addressed in (his) life."
Nationwide television aired it. Millions watched or rallied nationwide.
Dominican President Eliud Williams said "We are fervently supporting Venezuela, and we are here to say to our friend (Vice President Nicolas) Maduro that although your leader is going through a difficult time, you can count on Dominica as a reliable friend."
El Salvador's Vice President Salvador Sanchez Ceren said "Venezuela converted itself into (a) guiding light for Latin America that the Cuban Revolution was in the 1960s."
Uruguayan President Jose Mujica told Venezuelan television "You hardly see this sort of solidarity anywhere in the world."
It's seen nowhere like in Venezuela. Americans can't imagine popular support on this scale. It's real. People have reason to rally. Doing so gives thanks for unmatched social justice.
Maduro rallied supporters passionately. He accused opposition forces of trying to exploit events their way.
"They are trying to manipulate and opportunistically take advantage of the circumstances of Chavez's situation in order to destabilize the country," he stressed.
"Yet however they come after us, we always beat them. Here we are ready to continue with this revolution. Make no mistake. Here the people have demonstrated their strength."
He galvanized supporters "to send a shout of gigantic love on the count of three" to Chavez. Thousands raised their hands. In unison they said:
"I swear by the Bolivarian Constitution that I will defend (Chavez's presidency) in the streets, with reason, with trust, and with the strength and intelligence of a people that have liberated themselves from the yoke of the bourgeoisie."
If popular sentiment could heal, Chavez would be well and home. The power of popular support lifts him. He knows how Venezuelans feel. He hopes he'll be well enough to return soon. World class medical care helps him.
Chavistas rallied supportively in his absence. La Prensa headlined "Venezuelan grassroots support President Chavez, saying:
Mass support was impressive. It rallied impressively across the country. It extended well beyond the capital. A "common denominator of support" was expressed.
Regional leaders attended. They included Bolivia's Evo Morales, Uruguay's Jose Mujica, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, Surinam's Desi Bouterse, and Dominca's Eliud Williams.
Representatives from 30 organizations came. Twenty-seven regional countries sent theirs. Prime ministers, vice-chancellors, and other ministers attended. Council of Ministers Vice President Diaz-Canel Bermudez headed Cuba's delegation.
Russia, China, and other nations expressed support. So did social movement and union leaders.
Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff reiterated support for Chavez and the Venezuelan people. Other Brazilian politicians joined her.
Brazilian Landless Movement and Committee Brazil with Chavez leaders expressed support. Communist Party of Brazil head Renata Aline extended solidarity with Chavez and the Venezuelan people.
So did Confederation of Workers of Brazil leader Paulo Vinicius. Brazilians and Venezuelans have faith in Chavez, he said. Bolivarianism reflects Latin American change.
Journalist Carlos Almeida stressed "the historical role of the president of Venezuela." It "achieved the unity of the military and civilian sectors." Revolutionary change followed.
He highlighted the urgency to defeat America's hegemonic ambitions. Washington can't leave well enough alone. It wants unchallenged global resource control. All options are employed to get it.
Scoundrel media had their say. Reuters headlined "Venezuela's sick Chavez misses own inauguration bash." Supporters rallied in his absence.
AP headlined "Venezuela Holds Symbolic Inauguration for Chavez."
"Venezuela gathered foreign allies and tens of thousands of exuberant supporters to celebrate a new term for a leader too ill to return home for a real swearing-in."
"Nearly everyone wore red. Swelling crowd(s) spilled from the main avenue onto side streets."
Opposition lawmaker Maria Corina Machado represents Venezuela's lunatic fringe right wing. She's allied with dark Washington elements. She depends on them for financial support.
AP quoted her. She turned truth on its head. She claimed postponing Chavez's inauguration constituted a "well-aimed coup against the Venezuelan Constitution."
She said "It's being directed from Cuba, and by Cubans." She gets quoted instead of denounced.
The New York Times headlined "A Celebration That Accentuated an Absence."
Chavez's "silence spoke loudest of all." He hasn't "been seen or heard from directly in a month."
He's ill. He's struggling to recover. Complicated surgery healing takes time.
The Washington Post headlined "Ailing Hugo Chavez's inauguration proceeds symbolically in Venezuela."
"The show must go on...and so it" did. "Fiery revolutionary speeches" were delivered. Chavez couldn't give his own. Others filled in for him.
Opposition leaders were "powerless to head off the day's events, which only underscored Chavez's continued hold on power."
He didn't seize it. He earned it responsibly. Venezuelans love him. They turned out supportively en masse. They do it often. They do it because they mean it. January 10 was special.
Washington Post comments were largely low key. They stopped short of reigning on Chavez's parade.
The Wall Street Journal headlined "New Chavez Term Celebrated - Without Him."
Inaugural partying "kick(ed) off his fourth term." He remains hospitalized in Havana. "Political theater bordered on the surreal."
Americans never show support for leaders like Venezuelans. Why should they? There's no reason to celebrate.
The Journal said rallying "had a clever political purpose." It boosted support for Maduro. It helped other Bolivarian officials.
Chavismo reflects more than one man. Popular sentiment shows it. It's part of Venezuela's culture.
Opposition elements were quoted. So were unnamed right wing analysts. They tried but couldn't spoil Chavez's day.
On January 6, the Journal's Mary O'Grady weighed in. Her columns spurn truth. They feature outrageous misinformation. She's waged war on Chavez for years. She entirely lacks credibility.
It's astonishing anyone takes her seriously. She writes nothing worth reading. Vicious diatribes substitute for legitimate commentaries and analysis. She's paid to lie.
She writes the Journal's America's column. She knows nothing about the region. It shows in what she says. She calls Chavez the "kook from Caracas."
She headlined "Venezuela After Chavez." Is he "dead or alive," she asked? "Inquiring Venezuelans want to know." She falsely claimed failing to show up for swearing-in violates constitutional law.
She knows nothing about what it says. If she did, she wouldn't explain.
Chavismo reflects the "cult of his personality," she claimed. He "polarized the country." His "passing (will) be more than merely disruptive."
She falsely says Chavistas are vulnerable. Rival infighting contests for power. "More than one member of (Chavez's) inner circle wants his job."
Cuba is "trying to fashion a Venezuelan 'junta' that would pull the various factions together and preserve chavismo."
Cuba "decided that to do that, (Chavez) - dead or alive - must be retained as 'president.' "
O'Grady's commentaries have no basis in fact. She makes stuff up. It's red meat for right-wing ideologues. It pleases her boss. Murdoch demands lies, damn lies, demagoguery, and O'Grady-style agitprop.
She dutifully delivers. Venezuela's growth is among the highest in Latin America. She says it's in "shambles." She blames Chavismo.
She claims Chavez makes Pinochet look heroic. She deplores Bolivarian social justice. She features managed news misinformation. Doing so spurns truth.
She wouldn't recognize it if jumped up and bit her. She's acclimated to lying. Truth and full disclosure seem strange. She can't admit Bolivarian success. American-style governance pales by comparison.
Chavismo works. It reflects popular sentiment. It's institutionalized. It's more than about one man. O'Grady can't admit it.
She's mindless about important Venezuelan allies. China, Russia, Brazil, and others consider Venezuela an important partner. It's too important to lose. Relationships are mutually beneficial.
They oppose Washington's hegemonic ambitions. They support multipolar world cooperation. Venezuelans love Chavez for raising living standards.
He prioritizes social justice. Venezuela's most disadvantaged come first. They get vital benefits Americans can't imagine. They won't tolerate dark forces ending them.
They'll put their bodies on the line to keep them. Doing so enhances preserving them. Bolivarian-committed leaders assure it. They're more than a match for O'Grady diatribes and venom.
Sunshine is the best disinfectant. Venezuelans get plenty. It separates truth from fiction. It distinguishes between right and wrong. Venezuelans aren't about to sacrifice cherished benefits.
Bolivarianism is polar opposite fake US democracy. Life, liberty, and promoting the general welfare have meaning. Equity and justice are real.
Participatory democracy works. People choose what's best for them. Money power has no say.
Constitutional law prohibits top down rule. It matters because it's enforced. Venezuelans decide how they're led.
Americans have no say whatever. Duopoly power shuts them out. Bipartisan complicity wages war on social justice. Wealth, power, privilege and dominance matter most. So does America's imperium. Which country would you rather live in?
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.