Chavez's inauguration delayed as political conundrum deepens
AFPCARACAS/WASHINGTON -- Venezuela heads into uncharted political waters Wednesday without ailing President Hugo Chavez amid calls for the Supreme Court to decide if his government's postponing his inauguration is constitutional.
January 10, 2013, 1:39 pm TWN
After days of suspense, the government confirmed Tuesday that Chavez, recovering in Cuba from cancer surgery, was still too sick to return for his re-inauguration Thursday and would take the oath of office at a later date before the Supreme Court.
Leaders of the leftist government insist that, under the circumstances, the president's current term can be extended beyond the Jan. 10 inauguration date until he is well enough to be sworn in to another six-year term.
“If anyone has doubts, then go to the Supreme Court, go ahead to the Supreme Court, explain what your doubts are,” Diosdado Cabello, the National Assembly speaker, said in a stormy debate after the delay was announced.
“We don't have any doubts about what we have to do and what is (stated) here in the constitution,” he said.
The Supreme Court, which is controlled by pro-Chavez magistrates, called a news conference for Wednesday amid opposition demands for it to rule on the constitutionality of the government's decision.
On Tuesday, it rejected as inadmissible on technical grounds a challenge brought against Cabello's role, as the crisis deepened in this OPEC member which sits atop the world's largest proven oil reserves.
“I do not know what the judges of the Supreme Court are waiting for. Right now in Venezuela, without any doubt whatsoever, a constitutional conflict has arisen,” opposition leader and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said.
Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said late Monday that Chavez's medical condition was unchanged since the latest complication from surgery was reported four days ago.
Chavez, who has not been seen in public for nearly a month, the longest stretch of his 14 years in power, is suffering from a severe pulmonary infection that has resulted in a “respiratory insufficiency,” officials have said.
The announcement confirming that Chavez, 58, is too sick to be sworn in on the Jan. 10 inauguration day came in a letter to the National Assembly from Vice President Nicolas Maduro.
“According to the recommendation of the medical team ... the process of post-operative recovery must extend beyond Jan. 10 of the current year, reason for which he will not be able to appear on that date before the National Assembly,” said the letter.
The letter went on to say that, in keeping with article 231 of the constitution, Chavez would take the oath before the Supreme Court at a later day.