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Allies and adversaries of Chavez hold separate rallies to mark Venezuela democracy anniversary

Allies of President Hugo Chavez took to the streets of Venezuela's capital by the thousands on Wednesday to commemorate the anniversary of Venezuela's democracy amid uncertainty about the president's health more than six weeks after he underwent cancer surgery in Cuba.

Hundreds of Chavez's opponents held a separate gathering at a sports arena in eastern Caracas.

The president's supporters, many of whom wore T-shirts emblazoned with an image of the president's eyes, marched through Caracas in separate groups and planned to gather in the working-class neighborhood of 23 de Enero, which was built by Gen. Marcos Perez Jimenez, Venezuela's last dictator.

The president has not appeared or spoken publicly since he left for Havana on Dec. 10. The government says he is in Cuba recovering after his surgery, and the opposition has demanded more details about his condition.

Jan. 23 is the anniversary of the overthrow of Perez Jimenez. Since Chavez took office in 1999, it has become a date that underscores Venezuela's political divisions, with opponents often using it to protest against Chavez's government. Some government adversaries have likened Chavez to Perez Jimenez, saying that both attempted to silence the news media, used the judiciary to jail adversaries and infringed on freedoms.

Chavez and his supporters deny such accusations and say that the socialist president has strengthened the country's democracy. Chavez was re-elected to another six-year term in October.