Health problems prevented Chavez from coming to Caracas for an inauguration ceremony on January 10. While political opponents said that postponing the inauguration was unconstitutional, Venezuela's Supreme Court sided with Chavez's party, which had argued that the president did not need to be present at his swearing-in for his next term to begin.
Instead of a traditional inauguration ceremony, throngs of supporters in Caracas swore an oath of loyalty in Chavez's absence. Many waved flags and carried photos of the ailing president.
Chavez health updates
Regarding his two-plus months of treatment in Cuba, government officials say Venezuelans have sent a clear message: take the time you need. After weeks of grim assessments describing the president as battling a serious infection and fighting for his life, government statements about Chavez's health took a more optimistic tone in recent weeks, culminating with his return to Caracas early Monday morning.
"We come back to the country of Venezuela," Chavez posted on his official Twitter account. "Thank God! Thank you dear people! Here we continue the treatment."
Last week Maduro said Chavez was "in battle" and undergoing "extremely complex and hard" treatments, but he did not detail what the treatments involved. Government ministers have repeatedly said in recent weeks that the president's condition is improving.
Chavez has been battling cancer since June 2011, but officials have never revealed what type of cancer he has, and speculation has swirled about his health and political future. Venezuela's opposition has criticized the government's lack of transparency, while the government has accused political opponents and the media of spreading rumors about the president's health.
Vice president plays a prominent role
Meanwhile, on the Venezuelan political stage, Maduro has been front and center during El Comandante's absence. Maduro has spoken at political rallies around the country and delivered updates about Chavez on national television.
Last month, he told throngs of supporters that opponents were plotting to murder him.
Opposition critics have said he's campaigning for office -- a claim the government has denied. Maduro and other government officials have accused the opposition of printing fake campaign posters with Maduro's picture.
Before he left for Cuba for surgery last month, Chavez said he wanted Maduro to assume the presidency if he became incapacitated and called on voters to support Maduro at the polls.