The president of the National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, made the announcement on Saturday, a day after foreign dignitaries attended Mr. Chávez’s funeral. Mr. Chávez died Tuesday at age 58.

Before leaving the country in December for surgery in Cuba, Mr. Chávez named his vice president, Nicolás Maduro, as the man he wanted to carry on his revolution, and he urged his followers to support him as his party’s candidate if a special election were needed. Mr. Maduro was sworn in as interim president on Friday after Mr. Chávez’s funeral.

The opposition coalition has offered its slot to Henrique Capriles Radonski, a state governor who ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Chávez in October. Mr. Capriles was expected to make a statement later on Saturday.

The winner will serve the remainder of Mr. Chávez’s current six-year term, which began in January.

Mr. Maduro is widely considered the favorite. He benefits from Mr. Chávez’s political machine, including a strong voter turnout program, access to government resources, which Mr. Chávez used unabashedly in his campaigns, and an outpouring of sentiment after the death of the president, who was adored with a religious fervor by many of his millions of followers.

Mr. Capriles likes to say that he has a record of beating Mr. Chávez’s vice presidents. In winning election as governor of Miranda State, he twice beat former vice presidents running against him, most recently in December.

Mr. Capriles on Friday harshly criticized the swearing in of Mr. Maduro as interim president, calling it unconstitutional.

“Nicolás, no one elected you president,” he said at a news conference. “The people didn’t vote for you, boy.”

Mr. Capriles lost to Mr. Chávez by 11 percentage points in October but he received 6.5 million votes, far more than any opposition candidate had previously.

Venezuela has the world’s largest estimated oil reserves, and it is the fourth-largest foreign oil supplier to the United States. Yet the two countries have had rocky relations. Mr. Chávez became an outspoken critic of American policies during the Bush administration, which tacitly supported a coup that briefly ousted Mr. Chávez in 2002. Since then, Mr. Chávez has routinely accused the United States of seeking to undermine him and end his socialist-inspired revolution.

Venezuelan Election Set for April – New York Times
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