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Both Maduro and Capriles were to formally register their candidacies with Venezuela’s election authority on Monday.
Thousands of Maduro supporters, dressed in socialist-red and waving photos of Chavez, milled in the streets at the election board’s headquarters in downtown Caracas. “I’m backing Maduro because Chavez asked us,” said law student Marliely Lopez, 22.
Shaken by Chavez’s death and now immersed in an ugly election campaign, Venezuelans saw some semblance of normality return on Monday as most schools and shops re-opened after being closed for most of last week.
The official mourning period for Chavez ends on Tuesday.
Several million have paid their respects at his coffin at a military academy in a dramatic outpouring of grief.
Though criticized by many for his authoritarian tendencies and handling of the economy, Chavez was loved by millions, especially the poor, because of his own humble background, plain language, attacks on global “imperialists” and the domestic “elite,” as well as his welfare policies in Venezuela’s slums.
In death, he is fast earning a near-religious status among supporters, perhaps akin to that of Argentina’s former populist ruler Juan Peron and his deeply loved wife Eva Peron.
State TV has been playing speeches and appearances by Chavez over and over, next to a banner saying “Chavez lives forever.”
“We have the honor of having shared with the Bolivarian leader the same ideals of social justice and of support for the exploited,” Chavez’s friend and mentor, Fidel Castro, said in the latest of many tributes to him.
“I remembered the times he joked with me saying that when both of us finished our revolutionary work, he would invite me to spend time by the Arauca River in Venezuelan territory, which reminded him of the rest he never had.”
OPPOSITION’S UPHILL RACE
Chavez’s many detractors are keeping a low profile. But they say his memory is being burnished to forget less savory parts of his rule like the bullying of opponents and stifling of private businesses with nationalizations often announced on a whim.