Nicolas Maduro, the acting president of Venezuela, has officially opened his campaign to succeed Hugo Chavez, vowing to carry on his mentor's socialist legacy in the late leader's hometown ahead of the April 14 election.
The short presidential campaign formally kicked off on Tuesday, almost one month after Chavez died in cancer on March 5.
Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver and union leader, was accompanied by hundreds of supporters, government officials and Chavez relatives as he visited the late president's childhood home in Sabaneta, now a local ruling PSUV socialist party headquarters.
"We will fulfil the will and legacy of President Chavez," the handpicked successor said, describing the house as the "cradle of the Bolivarian revolution".
"We feel comandante Chavez within us, like a father. We come to make a commitment with this land that saw his birth, pledge to never fail him and build socialism to its last consequences," he said.
Al Jazeera's Lucia Newman, reporting from Sabaneta, said the acting president already had an edge over opposition rival Henrique Capriles.
"He has so many advantages [that] it would be very difficult for his challenger to beat him," our correspondent said. "He's riding very much on the wave of emotion and the electoral victories that the ruling party has had."
Media role questioned
Maduro and Capriles have traded barbs and wooed voters, as Venezuelans go to the polls for the second time in six months.
The opposition candidate, who lost to Chavez in the last October elections, has accused his rival of unfairly using state media and money in his campaign.
"The state media have become a propaganda wing of a political party," Capriles alleged, referring to the socialist party of Maduro.
In free and fair balloting, candidates are supposed to have the same access and the same rights, Capriles told a news conference.
He urged the National Electoral Council to be impartial and enforce campaign rules ahead of the April 14 vote.
But a communications minister said Capriles's campaign had received publicity from state media.
Ernesto Villegas wrote on Twitter that state television had broadcast Capriles's press conference live "despite his orders to prevent access for journalists" from state media.
Villegas also again invited Capriles to be interviewed on state television, after the opposition candidate denied an earlier request, saying state media was biased against him.
On Monday night, Capriles joined a march against insecurity in the country, railing against the government for failing to address the pressing issue.
"There is not a single proposal for the government to defeat violence and give peace to Venezuelans," Capriles said before a crowd of hundreds of thousands.
Chavez, who came to embody a resurgent Latin American left while channelling Venezuela's vast oil wealth into social programmes for the poor, died after a long battle with cancer.
During his 14 years in power Chavez developed a vast media apparatus consisting of at least five television broadcast channels, two newspapers and dozens of local radio stations carrying the government's message.