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Venezuela vice president raises profile; critics suggest he's campaigning in Chavez's absence


In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro, center, speaks to students during the inauguration of a school in Barinas, Venezuela, Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. Venezuela's vice president stepped into the shoes of ailing President Hugo Chavez in a flurry of public events Friday, working to maintain an image of government continuity after more than five weeks of unprecedented silence from the normally garrulous president. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office) (The Associated Press)

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro has begun rallying supporters so often on television that opponents are suggesting he is campaigning for support while ailing President Hugo Chavez remains out of sight in Cuba.

Maduro on Saturday visited a government-run market, promoting vegetables and other foods at cheap prices. In other appearances this past week, he presented new public housing and inaugurated a school.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said in a message on Twitter: "Maduro campaigning, be prepared!" Other opposition politicians have questioned Maduro's higher profile, saying it suggests an effort to promote him.

Maduro expressed confidence that Chavez will return home.

Before his latest cancer surgery, Chavez said that if his illness cuts short his presidency, Maduro should run in a new election to take his place.