Venezuelans have begun preparing for a snap election to choose a new leader after the death of Hugo Chavez.
Thousands of the late president’s supporters thronged the National Election Council on Monday as acting president Nicolas Maduro, dressed in a jacket in the colours of the Venezuelan flag, officially registered his candidacy.
“I am not Chavez, but I am his son and all of us together, the people, are Chavez,” he said.
Wearing red berets and T-shirts emblazoned with Chavez’s image, his supporters pledged loyalty to the deeply polarising socialist revolution that the former army paratrooper championed during his 14 years in power.
“We are going to elect Chavez in the body of Maduro,” said Jesus Oliviertt, a 60-year-old retiree. “We are going to continue his work.”
Henrique Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor who lost to Chavez in presidential elections in October, kept his followers off the street but warned Maduro on Sunday: “I won’t leave you an open path.
“You are going to have to defeat me with votes,” Capriles said in accepting the nomination of the main opposition coalition.
He formally registered his candidacy later in the day.
Venezuelans will vote on April 14 after a brief campaign that analysts say heavily favours Maduro, whom Chavez picked as his successor in his last public appearance before going to Cuba for cancer surgery in December.
The Venezuelan president died on March 5 and a lavish state funeral on Friday drew leaders from around Latin America and anti-US allies such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president.