In this photo released by Miraflores Presidential Press Office, Venezuela’s Vice President Nicolas Maduro addresses the nation from Miraflores presidential palace during a meeting with top government ministers, the military high command and all 20 loyalist governors in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, March 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Miraflores Presidential Press Office)

Acting President Maduro says Hugo Chavez appeared to him as a little bird

Venezuela’s acting President Nicolas Maduro is claiming that “a little bird” told him he should lead Venezuela. And Maduro claims that it wasn’t just your average bird, but instead Hugo Chavez.

Maduro said that he received late president Hugo Chavez’s blessing to run for president through a little bird when he went to chapel to pray. Maduro, speaking from Chavez’s former state home of Barinas, said that the little bird sang to him. When the bird appeared and circled him three times before whistling to him, he said he knew it was the spirit and blessing of the late Venezuelan leader.

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“I felt his spirit,” Maduro said in a televised speech broadcast from Barinas. “I felt him there as though he were giving us a blessing, saying to us ‘Today the battle begins.'”

Vice President of the Council of the Americas Eric Farnsworth told Bloomberg that Maduro was trying to ride Chavez’s wave of popularity. He said that Maduro was attempting to “claim the mantle of divinity, of being touched by the departed Chavez.”

Maduro’s comments come as the late Chavez enjoys almost divine status since his death earlier this month. Some chapels in the country have even been inaugurated in his honor.

Maduro was chosen as Hugo Chavez’s successor before he left to Cuba to received treatment for his unspecified form of cancer. The acting president is pitted against opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, a lawyer and former governor.

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With less than two weeks till the  presidential elections, the campaign has grown heated and personal. Capriles’ campaign lodged a formal protest today, claiming that several high ranking military officials illegally endorsed ruling party candidate Nicolas Maduro. Maduro’s campaign has denied violating any law.

While Tuesday marked the official start of the campaign, both candidates began to make appearances and deliver speeches just days after Chavez’s death on March 5th. The presidential election will be held on April 14th.

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