CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela’s new interim president, Nicolas Maduro, gave a clear sign Friday night that he will use political capital left by the late President Hugo Chavez to win election in his own right.
In his acceptance speech to the National Assembly after being sworn in as “president in charge,” Maduro, 50, named Science Minister Jorge Arreaza, who is married to Chavez's daughter, Rosa Virginia, as his vice president and running mate in an election likely to be held next month to decide Chavez's successor.
Maduro was sworn in at the National Assembly hall hours after funeral services were held at the Venezuelan Military Academy for Chavez, 58, who died Tuesday after a lengthy battle with cancer. More than 30 heads of state attended the services.
The Venezuelan Constitution calls for the government to hold a presidential election within 30 days of the death or resignation of an incumbent. But no date has yet been set.
Wearing the presidential sash presented by Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, Maduro in his speech asked the National Electoral Council to determine a date as soon as possible.
Among the spectators at the swearing-in were Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who spoke at the funeral service earlier Friday urging better U.S.-Venezuela relations.
Maduro dismissed charges made earlier Friday by opposition leader Henrique Capriles, likely to be his opponent in the election, that Maduro's assumption of the interim presidency was "unconstitutional."
“We have shown with deeds that we respect this constitution,” Maduro said, holding aloft a copy of the national charter. “We’re not going to fall for blackmail from any group.”