Chavez’s die-hard followers considered him a living legend on a par with independence-era hero Simon Bolivar well before his March 5 death from cancer. In the mere three weeks since, however, Chavez has ascended to divine status in this deeply Catholic country as the government and Chavistas build a religious mythology around him ahead of April 14 elections to pick a new leader…

One poster on sale in downtown Caracas depicts Chavez holding a shining gold cross in his hands beside a quote from the Book of Joshua: “Comrade, be not afraid. Neither be dismayed, for I Will be with you each instant.” The original scripture says “Lord thy God,” and not “I,” will accompany humanity each instant.

The late leader had encouraged such treatment as he built an elaborate cult of personality and mythologized his own rise to power, said Carolina Acosta-Alzuru, a University of Georgia media studies scholar who hails from Venezuela.

She said Chavez’s successors are clearly hoping that pumping up that mythology can boost Maduro’s presidential campaign, which has been based almost entirely on promises to continue Chavez’s legacy. The opposition candidate, Gov. Henrique Capriles, counters that Maduro isn’t Chavez, and highlights the problems that Chavez left behind such as soaring crime and inflation.