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News: Bolivarian Project

Venezuela’s Chavez is Stable, but Postponement of Swearing-in “Not Ruled Out”

Merida, December 19th 2012 ( –  Government officials informed the public that president Hugo Chavez remains stable after surgery for cancer last week, while national assembly president Diosdado Cabello made statements to the press over the possibility of deferring Chavez’s swearing-in for his new presidential term.

Yesterday the vice-presidency released a statement informing that President Hugo Chavez’s health is “stable” and that on Monday he had been treated for a “respiratory infection”. According to Chavez’s medical team, such infections are “more common in patients who have undergone complicated surgery” and they ordered complete rest over the next few days.

The statement said the respiratory infection “has been controlled”.

Nevertheless, it is not certain that Chavez will have recovered by 10 January, when he is due to be sworn in for his new presidential term.

Article 231 of Venezuela’s constitution says that the elected president will assume his or her position on the 10 January of the year his or her term begins. The new president should take the oath in front of the national assembly, but “if for any supervening reason, the person elected President of the Republic cannot be sworn in before the National Assembly, s/he shall take the oath of office before the Supreme Court”. No date is specified in that case.

“The decision of a whole people can’t be subject to just one day, whatever the constitution may say,” Diosdado Cabello, president of the national assembly, said in response to press questions yesterday.

Cabello said that, “speaking in a personal capacity”, the possibility of deferring the swearing-in couldn’t be ruled out, however “the PSUV isn’t working on the hypothesis that President Hugo Chavez won’t assume his new mandate” on 10 January.

“There’s the precedent of a mayor who postponed his taking on of the position for three months, I don’t remember his name right now but it’s a true fact, the law just can’t be interpreted so rigidly,” Cabello said.

Venezuela’s constitution further states that if the president becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election shall be held in 30 days. Article 233 says that “permanently unavailable to serve” involves the following reasons: death, resignation, removal from office by decision of the Supreme Court, permanent physical or mental incompetence certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Court with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.

Likewise, if the president  becomes permanently unavailable to serve within the first four years of his term, an election should be held within 30 days.

If, however, the president is temporarily unavailable to serve, he or she will be replaced by the vice-president for  up to 90 days, a period which the national assembly can resolve to extend for a further 90 days. After the first or second 90 day period the national assembly can then decide, by majority vote, if it will consider the absence permanent. Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has a majority in the national assembly.

“I’m sure the opposition will be waiting for 10 January to go to the Supreme Court with the constitution to request that the letter of the law is complied with, but I believe laws have to be interpreted positively,” Cabello said.

Chavez is currently in Cuba recovering from his fourth operation in the last year and a half for reappearances of cancer.

Published on Dec 19th 2012 at 6.13pm