A woman from the military reacts outside the altar for Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez at the 23 de Enero neighbourhood in Caracas March 5, 2014. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo
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Followers of Venezuela's late socialist leader Hugo Chavez flooded the streets on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of his death, a sad but welcome distraction for his successor who has faced a month of violent protests.A year after Chavez succumbed to cancer, his self-proclaimed 'son,' President Nicolas Maduro, faces the biggest challenge to his rule from a month-long explosion of anti-government demonstrations that have led to 18 deaths.Tens of thousands of red-clad 'Chavistas' gathered for rallies in Caracas and elsewhere in honor of Chavez whose 14-year rule won him the adoration of many of Venezuela's poorest, while alienating the middle and upper classes.Maduro, a former bus driver and union activist, lacks Chavez's charisma and grip on the ruling Socialist Party, and has been unable to fix Venezuela's many problems, ranging from soaring prices, to deteriorating services, and runaway crime.Some opposition leaders called for a day without protests on Wednesday to show respect for Chavez's memory.The numbers of demonstrators seldom go beyond a few thousand, a far cry from the vast street protests against Chavez that led to a brief military coup against him in 2002 .
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