Many mourners Wednesday took their cue from Maduro, venting anger at Washington and accusing Venezuela's opposition of conspiring with far-right U.S. forces to undermine the revolution.
"The government of the United States is not going to rest," said Oscar Navas, a 33-year-old fruit vendor and Chavez supporter who joined the procession. "It's going to continue conspiring against our revolution because we are anti-imperialists. I don't have the slightest doubt the CIA is here, undercover, doing whatever it can to destabilize our country."
Venezuela and the United States have a complicated relationship, with Chavez's enemy to the north remaining the top buyer of Venezuelan oil. But Chavez's inner circle has long claimed the United States was behind a failed 2002 attempt to overthrow him, and he has frequently used anti-American rhetoric to stir up support. Venezuela has been without a U.S. ambassador since July 2010 and expelled another U.S. military officer in 2006.
U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell denied Washington was trying to destabilize Venezuela and said the claim "leads us to conclude that, unfortunately, the current Venezuelan government is not interested in an improved relationship."
Ventrell added that the suggestion that the United States had a hand in Chavez's illness was "absurd." He hinted the U.S. could reciprocate with expulsions of Venezuelan diplomats.
Capriles, the youthful governor of Miranda state who lost to Chavez in October presidential election, was conciliatory in a televised address Tuesday. He is widely expected to run against Maduro.
"This is not the moment to highlight what separates us," Capriles said. "This is not the hour for differences; it is the hour for union, it is the hour for peace."
Although the armed forces chief, Gen. Wilmer Barrientos, reported "complete calm" in the country late Tuesday, several incidents of political violence flared after Chavez's death.
A group of masked, helmeted men on motorcycles, some brandishing revolvers, reportedly attacked about 40 students on Tuesday who had been protesting for more than a week near the Supreme Court building to demand the government give more information about Chavez's health.
The assailants, who didn't wear clothing identifying any political allegiance, burned the students' tents and scattered their food just minutes after Chavez's death was announced.
"They burned everything we had," said student leader Gaby Arellano. She said she saw four of the attackers with pistols but none fired a shot.
Outside the military hospital, an angry crowd also roughed up a Colombian TV reporter.
"They beat us with helmets, with sticks, men, women, adults," Carmen Andrea Rengifo said on RCN TV. Video images showed her bleeding above the forehead, but she was not seriously injured.
Maduro and other government officials have railed against international media for allegedly reporting rumors about Chavez's health, although RCN wasn't one of those criticized.
Chavez leaves behind a political movement in control of a nation that human rights activist Liliana Ortega, director of the nongovernmental group COFAVIC, describes as a badly deteriorated state where institutions such as the police, courts and prosecutor's offices have been converted into tools of political persecution and where most media are firmly controlled by the government.
Javier Corrales, an Amherst College political scientist, said he was concerned about the "virulent, anti-American discourse" under Maduro. "It seems to me this is a government that is beginning to blame the United States for all its troubles."
"This is very dark," he said. "This is the most nebulous period, the most menacing that the government has been, and the actions have been pretty severe."