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    Hugo Chavez loyalists warn off opposition

    Vice President Nicolas Maduro spoke at a rally in support of President Hugo Chavez in Caracas on Jan. 10.
    Vice President Nicolas Maduro spoke at a rally in support of President Hugo Chavez in Caracas on Jan. 10.

    CARACAS — Top government officials are threatening to take action against opposition governors and issuing dark warnings about conspiracies against the government of President Hugo Chavez, who is ailing and remains incommunicado in Cuba.

    At a large rally for the cancer-stricken Chavez on Jan. 10, the day designated for his inauguration, Vice President Nicolas Maduro sent a warning to government critics who had objected to a Supreme Court ruling that endorsed the indefinite postponement of the president’s swearing-in.

    Many interpreted his words to be directed at Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda state, who lost to Chavez in the October presidential election. He is the most likely opposition candidate if a special election has to be held should Chavez die, resign, or become too sick to continue in office.


    ‘‘Some governors out there have come out to make declarations, playing with words,’’ Maduro said. ‘‘We say to them, ‘Stop the waffling.’ If you don’t recognize the legitimate government of President Chavez, we are evaluating legally very forceful actions, because if you don’t recognize me, I’m not obligated to recognize you. It’s that simple.’’

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    Before leaving for cancer surgery in Havana in early December, Chavez designated Maduro as his political heir and said that he wanted him to run for president if a special election became necessary.

    Later on Thursday, Capriles posted a reply on Twitter saying, ‘‘Threats from No.2s make us laugh, let’s see if starting tomorrow they get back to work, Government in paralysis.’’

    Vladimir Villegas, a former ambassador now critical of the government, said that in Chavez’s absence, Maduro and others were using the clash with the opposition to promote unity among their followers.

    ‘‘They can’t live without an enemy,’’ Villegas said. ‘‘The confrontation with the opposition holds them together.’’


    The vice president is appointed by the president, and some in the opposition have argued that Maduro cannot continue to serve in the new term without being reappointed by Chavez. But the Supreme Court ruled that Maduro and other appointees could continue in their posts.

    Chavez has not been seen or heard from since his cancer surgery on Dec. 11 in Havana. Officials have said that he is fighting a severe lung infection.