Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a television program, in Caracas, on Jan. 4, 2013. Venezuela's cancer-stricken PresidentHugo Chavezcan continue in office even if he is unable to be sworn in to a new term on January 10 as scheduled, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Friday. (Xinhua/Venezuela's Presidency)
CARACAS, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Friday that ailing President Hugo Chavez could be sworn in by the Supreme Court at a later date if he is not able to take the oath of office as scheduled on Jan. 10.
This is the latest and clearest government statement over Chavez's swearing-in for his third six-year term in response to the opposition's calls for naming a replacement for Chavez or holding a new election given Chavez's critical condition.
Chavez has not appeared before the public or been heard from since he underwent his fourth cancer surgery on Dec. 11 in Cuban capital Havana, although the government and his allies have occasionally updated the Venezuelans with information about his condition.
The recent government statement described Chavez's respiratory infection he contacted after the surgery as "severe" and confirmed that the 58-year-old president is facing "complications," which fed speculations that Chavez would not be well enough to return home and take the oath of office on Thursday.
Venezuelan opposition leaders, accusing the government of giving "insufficient" information about Chavez's health, have even argued that Chavez seems no longer fit to continue as president.
They also demanded that Chavez at least temporarily give up the presidency to the speaker of the National Assembly and a new election be held within 30 days if he is not in Caracas on the inauguration day.
According to Venezuela's Constitution, new elections will be held within 30 days if the National Assembly determines a "complete absence" of the president because of death, physical or mental impairment or stepping down either before taking office or being dead during his first four years in office.
If a new election is called, presidential power should be held temporarily by the speaker of the National Assembly.
Maduro said Friday that Chavez, as a reelected president, remains in office beyond the inauguration date stipulated in the Constitution, and could be sworn in if necessary before the Supreme Court at a date to be determined.
"The formality of his swearing-in can be resolved before the Supreme Court of Justice, at the time (the court) deems in coordination with the head of state, Commander Hugo Chavez," Maduro said.
National Assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello also said last month that the Constitution says if a president is unable to be sworn in by the legislature, he may be sworn in by Supreme Court justices. Some legal experts have also noted that the sentence mentioning the court does not mention a date.
Chavez has undergone four cancer-related surgeries since June 2011 for an undisclosed type of pelvic cancer. He also has undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Two months after he was reelected to another six-year term in October last year, the recurrence of the cancer forced him to undergo a fourth surgery in Cuba. Before his departure for the operation, Chavez said if his illness prevented him from remaining as president, Maduro should be candidate of the ruling United Socialist party of Venezuela in a new election.
Venezuela's National Assembly will convene on Saturday and is expected to shed light on what steps may be taken if Chavez is too sick to be sworn in.
CARACAS, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) -- Venezuelan PresidentHugo Chavezis still suffering from a "severe" lung infection that has caused breathing difficulties as he struggles to recover from a Dec. 11 cancer surgery in Cuba, officials said on Thursday.
"Commander Chavez has faced complications as a result of a severe lung infection," Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said in a national broadcast. Full story
CARACAS, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is fully aware of the complexity of his condition three weeks after cancer surgery in Cuba, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday.
Chavez, who has been fighting an undisclosed type of pelvic cancer since June 2011, was "totally conscious of the complexity of his post-operative condition" and faced the illness with courage and dignity, Maduro said in a televised interview in Cuba. Full story