CARACAS (AP) – Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro is promising to protect the country's socialist revolution from what he says are "bad guy" opposition leaders who will take control of Congress next month.
Speaking from the mausoleum of the late President Hugo Chavez Tuesday night, Maduro said he would fight the agenda of opposition leaders who won a landslide victory in Sunday's legislative election.
The embattled socialist president stood directly over the marble sarcophagus where his mentor's body rests, and appealed to Chavez for guidance.
"Oh how we miss you, Commander; your advice and your fighting spirit," he said. "I hope that the historic project you left to Venezuela and the world can continue."
Maduro promised to reject a law backed by opposition leaders that would free imprisoned anti-government activists.
That rejection would be mostly symbolic, because in Venezuela bills can become law even if the president does not approve, so long as the Supreme Court does not find the legislation unconstitutional.
Maduro also pledged to shake up his cabinet in the wake of the opposition's first national victory since Chavez initiated the socialist movement in 1998, and to hold a summit to examine what went wrong in the election in which, he said, "the bad guys won."
A group of justices requested early retirement in the run up to the vote, raising fears that the socialist party would try to pack the court if the election went against them. Those justices could in theory reverse any legislation the new National Assembly approves.
On Tuesday, National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello announced that the government would appoint 12 new Supreme Court judges before the opposition leaders are sworn in on Jan. 5.
Cabello also said the National Assembly's television channel would remain in the hands of the station's government workers.
The tiny channel has become a point of contention because the opposition has been almost completely frozen out of the mainstream media here. State television stations, including this one, have become organs of propaganda for the socialist party.
Opposition members now use a YouTube channel to get their announcements out, and have already been eagerly planning what they will do with the National Assembly channel.
Venezuela has not seen a divided government since Chavez came to power in 1998, and Maduro's remarks Tuesday added fuel to fears that the two camps will be unable to share power.
The opposition has said it will use its new legislative power to remove Maduro from office if he refuses to work together to rescue the country's sinking economy, and even some socialists have called for his resignation in the wake of Sunday's loss.