Venezuelan President Chávez Lands in Cuba for Chemotherapy, Delegates Some Executive Powers

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez has arrived in Cuba for chemotherapy treatment following his surgery to remove a cancerous tumour.

By Rachael Boothroyd - Venezuelanalysis.com

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Venezuelans gathered in Caracas in a show of support for president Chávez (CdO)
Venezuelans gathered in Caracas in a show of support for president Chávez (CdO)
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Coro, July 17th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez has arrived in Cuba for chemotherapy treatment following his surgery to remove a cancerous tumour.

Chávez travelled to Havana this Saturday, where he was greeted at the José Martí International airport by his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro. Following his surprise cancer diagnosis and unforeseen absence in June, Chávez returned to Venezuela in time for the country’s bicentennial celebrations on July 5th.

“I resolved myself to making a colossal effort in order to celebrate the bicentennial of the declaration of our independence alongside the warmth of the Venezuelan people...But now I must follow that path and that long and difficult return journey and continue following the strict medical plan designed by the team of doctors who are accompanying me in this, like I have already said, ascent towards el Chimborazo*” said the president in reference to one of the highest peaks of the Andes.

The government has confirmed that Chavéz will continue to govern throughout his stay in Havana, despite demands from sectors of the opposition that Vice-president Elias Jaua should assume the presidency. The nation’s 1999 constitution specifies that a vice-president can assume the executive role under exceptional circumstances; specifically the president’s “death, resignation or dismissal” or “permanent mental or physical incapacity as certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Court of Justice”.

“This is not about the president renouncing his political duties or responsibilities due to his being absent for more than 5 days. He (Chávez) continues to be the president of the Republic wherever he is and whatever the circumstances” affirmed Carlos Escarrá, representative of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

In a specially convened session on Saturday, the National Assembly unanimously voted to allow the president’s temporary absence from the country; as required by Article 235 of the Venezuelan constitution.

Following the National Assembly’s decision, Chávez thanked the representatives of the legislative body and stated that he hoped to be absent for only a short period of time. The Assembly’s authorisation is valid for 90 days, at which point it may be extended for another 90 days should Chávez still be absent from the country.

Delegation of Presidential Duties

On Saturday, Chávez called a meeting of vice-presidents in which he signed a decree delegating a series of his presidential duties to Vice-president Jaua and Minister of Planning and Finance Jorge Giordani.

Jaua will now take over 9 presidential duties, including; the authorisation of takeovers and forced expropriations, approving budget transfers to state ministries, naming vice-ministers and approving ministerial requests for funding. Giordani will now assume responsibility for 2 presidential duties relating to income tax and value added tax.

In a meeting with the Executive Cabinet, ministers and governors prior to his departure, Chávez stressed the need for unity within the PSUV party.

“We need to pulverise sectarianism and internal factionalism, whoever disagrees can go” he said.

“Here there is a transition from capitalism, which is destroying the world, towards socialism. These 10 years, we have to advance a lot more than what we have advanced towards socialism” he continued.

The Venezuelan president also approved funding of over 17 billion bolivars for improving the efficiency of state institutions and services (US$4 billion) and 412 million bolivars for the purchase of electrical plants (US$96 million).

On hearing the news of Chávez’s departure, throngs of Venezuelans gathered from 3 pm at Sucre de Catia, Caracas, in solidarity with the president and to wish him well for his journey and stay in Havana.

*El Chimborazo is a volcano in Ecuador which inspired Simón Bolivar to write the poem “My Delirium on Chimborazo”, in which the Liberator meets the God of Time.