Skip to main content

Chavez gone, but far from forgotten as Venezuelan presidential campaigns start

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
March 12, 2013 -- Updated 0948 GMT (1748 HKT)
  • "I am not Chavez, but I am his son," Maduro says as he officially enters the race
  • Less than a week after his death, supporters sing along with a recording of Chavez
  • Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has said he's ready for a tough fight
  • Voters from the South American country will head to polls on April 14

(CNN) -- Hugo Chavez's voice boomed through the speakers at a Venezuelan campaign rally Monday, just minutes after the country's interim leader filed papers to run for president.

The message was clear as Nicolas Maduro and his supporters from the United Socialist Party of Venezuela sang along with a recording of Chavez belting out Venezuela's national anthem.

As Maduro spoke to a cheering crowd, a large photo of Chavez saluting hung behind him. As he filed his campaign platform with election officials, the 50-year-old former bus driver and union leader stressed his commitment to continuing the late president's legacy.

"I am not Chavez, but I am his son," Maduro said. "And all together, the people, we are Chavez."

Venezuela's interim leader thrust into spotlight

What is Hugo Chavez's economic legacy?
iReporters remember Hugo Chavez
GPS: Venezuela after Chavez
An 'SNL' tribute to Hugo Chavez

In a national television broadcast less than a week ago, a tearful Maduro, then vice president, announced Chavez's death after suffering from cancer for a long time. Maduro was sworn in as interim president on Friday, and elections are scheduled for April 14.

In December, Chavez didn't mince words when he told Venezuelans who he wanted to succeed him.

"My firm opinion, as clear as the full moon -- irrevocable, absolute, total -- is ... that you elect Nicolas Maduro as president," Chavez said, waving a copy of the Venezuelan Constitution as he spoke. "I ask this of you from my heart. He is one of the young leaders with the greatest ability to continue, if I cannot."

But on Sunday, opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski said he was ready for a tough fight.

"Nicolas, I will not give you a free path," Capriles said to reporters. "You will have to defeat me with votes."

Capriles, 40, ran against Chavez last year and lost. But he mounted one of the fiercest challenges during the late president's 14 years in power. On Monday, he also filed paperwork to run for the presidency, CNN affiliate Globovision reported.

On Sunday, Capriles accused the government of manipulating Chavez's death for political gain.

"My fight is not to be president. My fight is for Venezuela to move forward," Capriles said Sunday night.

Whether Chavez's popular political movement will have enough momentum to win at the polls after his death remains to be seen, analysts have said.

Venezuela: Will 'Chavismo' survive?

"Since he does not have charisma, he does not have the experience, he does not have military roots, I think that the Cubans and other friends of Chavez are looking at this election with a bit of nervousness," said Lino Gutierrez, a former U.S. ambassador in Argentina and Nicaragua who now runs an international consulting firm.

But it remains probable that with Chavez's party backing him, Maduro has the necessary strength and support to win an election, said Carlos Manuel Indacochea, a professor at George Washington University.

"No victory is absolutely predictable, but it is very likely," Indacochea told CNN en Español on Monday. "It is very likely because again the government will use all the resources of the state and the recent fact of the death and the aura of the leader who has just departed. So it is very likely that he wins the election."

CNN's Dana Ford and Juan Carlos Lopez contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Hugo Chavez
April 11, 2013 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
split venezuela capriles maduro
Less than six weeks after President Hugo Chavez's death, Venezuelans will head to the polls Sunday to pick a new leader.
March 8, 2013 -- Updated 1736 GMT (0136 HKT)
The poor, usually marginalized by Latin American politicians, became Chavez's main weapon.
March 14, 2013 -- Updated 1146 GMT (1946 HKT)
The plan to embalm the body of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may have hit a snag.
March 9, 2013 -- Updated 0331 GMT (1131 HKT)
The body of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is the latest in a long line of world leaders whose remains have been embalmed and displayed.
March 6, 2013 -- Updated 1038 GMT (1838 HKT)
Hugo Chavez, the polarizing president of Venezuela who cast himself as a "21st century socialist" and foe of the United States, died Tuesday.
What is your reaction to President Chavez's death? How do you think it will affect Venezuela's politics? How does is affect your country?
March 5, 2013 -- Updated 2307 GMT (0707 HKT)
CNN's Rafael Romo looks back at the life of recently deceased Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
March 4, 2014 -- Updated 1907 GMT (0307 HKT)
Venezuela has been transformed while Chavez was in office. Browse through the picture to explore his legacy.
March 5, 2013 -- Updated 2156 GMT (0556 HKT)
A look back and the life and legacy of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. CNN's Jim Clancy reports.
March 6, 2013 -- Updated 1104 GMT (1904 HKT)
Hugo Chavez played key role in focusing attention on the poor. But Frida Ghitis says in the process of helping the poor, he undermined the democracy.
March 8, 2013 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
Jesse Jackson: Chavez's death an opportunity for U.S. and Venezuela to heal relations.
March 6, 2013 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
The death of the charismatic but controversial leader leaves many unanswered questions that Venezuela and the world must now grapple with.
March 6, 2013 -- Updated 0135 GMT (0935 HKT)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sings with CNN's Larry King prior to his 2009 interview.
March 6, 2013 -- Updated 1406 GMT (2206 HKT)
News of Chavez's death drew impassioned reactions from around the world, as leaders and other public figures weighed in on his legacy.
March 6, 2013 -- Updated 0724 GMT (1524 HKT)
CNN looks back at some of the more memorable things President Hugo Chavez said during his life -- like calling George Bush the devil.
March 6, 2013 -- Updated 1034 GMT (1834 HKT)
He began his career as a bus driver, then rose through the ranks to become a member of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's inner circle.
March 6, 2013 -- Updated 0753 GMT (1553 HKT)
Chavez will be remembered for improving the wealth and political participation of the poor. But his death leaves an economy in tatters, some say.
March 6, 2013 -- Updated 0333 GMT (1133 HKT)
Kevin Spacey, Naomi Campbell, Diego Maradona. Browse through the pictures of Hollywood icons and global superstars that met Chavez.
March 6, 2013 -- Updated 1041 GMT (1841 HKT)
Chavez cultivated a larger-than-life appearance. But even after years in office, his legacy may be more fleeting than his outsize personality suggested.
March 5, 2013 -- Updated 2240 GMT (0640 HKT)
Watch: In a 2009 interview, Larry King talks to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez about Obama and Venezeula's global role.
Get the latest news, analysis, commentaries and videos from Venezuela in Spanish language on CNN Español.