Venezuela's government is honoring the late Hugo Chavez with a public holiday of "loyalty and love to the supreme commander" of the South American nation's socialist revolution.

President Nicolas Maduro's decree establishing Dec. 8 as a public holiday in honor of the polarizing leader is generating controversy because commemorations this year will take place the day before municipal elections. The vote is widely seen as a referendum on Maduro's seven-month rule.

The holiday commemorates Chavez's final public appearance, when the cancer-stricken leader anointed Maduro as his would-be successor. Three months later he died at the age of 58.

The decree was published Tuesday.