Venezuela assembly meets amid Chavez health crisis
By Jim Mannion AFPCARACAS, Venezuela--Venezuela's National Assembly is set to meet Saturday to elect its leadership and likely thrash out the country's political future as President Hugo Chavez battles cancer in Cuba and debate rages over whether he can be sworn in to a new term next week.
January 6, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
The lawmakers' vote will be a key political test for the assembly's current leader Diosdado Cabello, the regime's number three and a perceived rival for power with Vice President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's handpicked successor.
Both men have denied persistent reports of a power struggle between them and vowed to maintain party unity.
In convening the session, Cabello called on Chavez supporters to rally outside the parliament building “to exhort revolutionary unity and head off the campaign of rumors.”
Cabello was expected to win reelection as president of the assembly, which is controlled by Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
But if he fails to keep his post, it would give credence to the view that a fight for dominance in a post-Chavez Venezuela is already under way.
So far, Chavez has refused to relinquish power despite four rounds of surgery and debilitating complications that have kept him out of public view in Havana for nearly a month, the longest stretch in his 14 years in power.
“The official version of what is happening is unsustainable,” the head of the main opposition coalition, Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, said in an interview with AFP and digital news outlet Noticias24.
Aveledo said it would make more sense for the government to acknowledge “the truth” and use it to prepare the country for what is to come. But it “doesn't want to admit that the president is absent.”
Maduro, for his part, vehemently rejected that position in a television appearance late Friday, laying out a legal rationale for delaying the president's swearing-in to a new six-year term for an unspecified period of time while keeping Chavez in office.