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Candlelight vigil in Venezuela for Chavez

Friday, February 22, 2013 | 7:19 PM    

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Hundreds of Venezuelans are holding a candlelight vigil for President Hugo Chavez Friday, praying for their leader while he remains in a hospital undergoing cancer treatment.

Chavez’s supporters gathered on a large staircase in a hillside park near the presidential palace. They lit candles and sang along with a recording of Chavez singing the national anthem.

Some wiped away tears. Others closed their eyes and prayed. 

A group of indigenous people in traditional dress danced around a bonfire at the base of the stairs. One woman blew on a conch shell, while others shook gourds as they danced around the flames.

Earlier Friday Venezuela’s foreign minister read a lengthy letter from the ailing Chavez to a gathering of African and South American leaders in Equatorial Guinea.

In the letter, read on television by Foreign Minister Elias Jaua, Chavez said he was sorry not to be able to attend the meeting. 

Chavez hasn’t spoken publicly since he underwent his latest cancer surgery on December 11, and written statements have been rare. Government officials have said Chavez is breathing through a tracheal tube, but they have also shown a few letters and other documents with his signature.

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