Venezuela decrees holiday in memory of Chavez

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The late Hugo Chavez is being honored with a public holiday in Venezuela, though not everyone is celebrating because the effort to keep the socialist leader’s legacy alive will coincide with elections.

President Nicolas Maduro decreed Dec. 8 “the day of loyalty and love” to commemorate Chavez’s final speech and public appearance last year, three months before he died of cancer.

This year’s holiday falls on the same day as elections for mayors across Venezuela that are being billed by the opposition as a referendum on Maduro’s seven-month rule.

Vicente Diaz, one of five members of the National Electoral Council and the only one who frequently criticizes the government, denounced Tuesday’s decree. In a message posted on Twitter, he called the holiday a “rude display of electoral opportunism.”

Maduro was firm in a speech, saying that those questioning the holiday want to incite violence and destabilize his government.

“It would be a sign of weakness to yield to blackmail,” he said after attending a military cannon salute to remember the eight-month anniversary of Chavez’s death.

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