Militia troops in fatigues stood in formation. Soldiers and police guarded street corners while hip-hop artists performed in the morning on stages set up along the avenue.
The mood was festive as Chavez’s followers blew horns and held up posters reading: ‘‘Now with Chavez more than ever.’’
‘‘We came to show support, so he knows his nation is with him,’’ said Anny Marquez, a secretary and voluntary member of a civilian militia that Chavez has built in recent years. ‘‘We’re with him in the good times as well as the bad.’’
It was one of the largest rallies for Chavez in recent years. Public employees joined the president’s supporters, and some arrived in government buses after traveling for hours across the country.
Chavez has undergone repeated surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments since June 2011 for an unspecified type of pelvic cancer.
Information Minister Ernesto Villegas reiterated on Thursday that Chavez is ‘‘in a complex and difficult situation’’ due to a severe lung infection that led to a ‘‘respiratory deficiency.’’ He didn’t give details.
Many in the crowd said they were praying for the president.
Yet while Chavez’s followers projected confidence in the resilience of their socialist movement, some also acknowledged the possibility of changes ahead.
‘‘It’s possible he may die,’’ said Jaime Salcedo, a farmer who traveled across the country for the event. ‘‘But his death wouldn’t be the end of the revolution. Of that I'm sure. Look at all those people in the street today.’’
Associated Press writers Fabiola Sanchez and Vivian Sequera contributed to this report.
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