CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuela's vice president, who's the hand-picked successor to the late president Hugo Chavez, has registered to be a candidate in next month's election.
And Nicolas Maduro brought thousands of supporters with him when he signed his election papers. They applauded from a plaza outside the National Election Commission, waving banners and holding posters of Chavez. Many wore the red shirts and caps of the ruling Socialist Party.
The opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, is also supposed to sign his election papers later in the day -- though he'd have to make his way through the crowds of Chavez supporters surrounding the building.
Campaigning for the April 14th vote doesn't officially start until the second of April -- but already, the two sides are at each other's throats.
Capriles has accused Chavez's top aides of trying to use the president's death to stoke passions and tilt the election. Maduro, appearing right after Capriles on state TV yesterday referred to Capriles as "the losing, miserable candidate" and accused him of defaming Chavez and his family.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration today expelled two Venezuelan diplomats in retaliation for Venezuela's expulsion of two American military attaches after Chavez died last week.
APPHOTO XRM119: A woman sells merchandise related to late President Hugo Chavez at a gathering of Chavez supporters to support the candidacy of acting president and former Vice President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, March 11, 2013. Presidential elections were announced to take place on April 14, after Maduro announced on March 5 that Chavez had died. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos) (11 Mar 2013)
APPHOTO XRM116: Supporters of acting President Nicolas Maduro gather outside the national electoral council as he registers his candidacy to replace Chavez at the national electoral council in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, March 11, 2013. The poster on the post shows Chavez and reads in Spanish "Maduro from my heart." Presidential elections were announced to take place on April 14, after Maduro announced on March 5 that Chavez had died. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano) (11 Mar 2013)
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