With Chavez absent, Venezuela launches new presidential term
By Jim Mannion, AFPCARACAS--With President Hugo Chavez ailing and absent, Venezuela's leftist government launches a new presidential term Thursday with a display of popular support on the day he was to be inaugurated.
January 11, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
The Supreme Court cleared the cancer-stricken president to indefinitely postpone his re-inauguration and said his existing administration could remain in office until he is well enough to take the oath.
The court re-iterated that Chavez could swear in again “on a later occasion before the Supreme Court.”
It was the last legal hurdle to a government plan for resolving the vacuum created by Chavez's illness that met fierce resistance from the opposition, which had argued it was unconstitutional.
Henrique Capriles, who ran unsuccessfully against Chavez in the October presidential elections, accepted the unanimous ruling as “binding” but said it did not end the uncertainties facing the country.
“Now the ruling has been handed down. There is an interpretation by the Supreme Court,” Capriles said before shifting his aim to Maduro, Chavez's handpicked successor.
“The excuses are over, Mr Maduro. Now it falls to you to assume the responsibility of the office and to govern.”
But even without the official ceremony, and despite the lingering controversy, Venezuela's government prepared for a day of celebration of Chavez, who won re-election in October by a healthy margin, despite his health battles.
“We're going to have a grand event in homage of President Chavez. We are all going to swear in everyone with this constitution,” said Vice President Nicolas Maduro had said on Wednesday, inviting all Venezuelans to turn out in support of the absent president.
“It is a historic day, because it is the start of President Chavez's 2013-19 mandate,” Maduro said while meeting with the Cabinet.
Leaders of other leftist Latin American government had already begun arriving in Caracas to pay tribute to Chavez, 58, who has not be seen in public since he underwent cancer surgery a month ago in Havana.
The military announced it was reinforcing security in the city and at other strategic points to ensure the day was observed peacefully.
And the government stopped a broadcaster, Globovision, from airing videos about the controversy over Chavez's non-inauguration, saying they risked inciting political “intolerance.”
Globovision, known for being critical of the government, denounced the ban as an act of censorship.
Chavez, who is recovering from a fourth round of cancer surgery in Havana, will be marking a full month since he has been seen in public, the longest stretch of his 14 years in power.