Merida, December 25th 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – According to the Venezuelan government, President Hugo Chavez is “walking and exercising”, in contrast to some private media claims that he is currently “dependent on artificial respiration”. Debate continues over what to do if Chavez can’t make the 10 January swearing-in, with officials stating there would be a postponement.
Debate over postponing Chavez’s swearing-in
After winning the 7 October presidential elections, Chavez is due to swear-in for his new term as president on 10 January, a date that is stipulated in Venezuela’s constitution. However, there is the possibility that Chavez may not be well by then, and political leaders on both sides of the spectrum have been debating what should be done in that situation.
Yesterday Vice-president Nicolas Maduro urged people to “let 10 January arrive, and don’t fall victim to speculation”.
“The people re-elected a president on 7 October, and that’s Chavez, the rest is speculation. What is certain is that the president has a leave of absence granted by the national assembly to attend to his health.” As required by the constitution, the national assembly granted Chavez the leave shortly before he left for Cuba for the operation.
“If this leave of absence has to be extended beyond 10 January, the constitution will be activated and surely his swearing-in would take place before the Supreme Court,” Maduro said.
Also, PSUV leader and president of the national assembly, Diosdado Cabello, told the opposition on Sunday not to hold high hopes of getting into power through the 10 January situation, “you’re wrong, absolutely wrong, that’s not the way you’re going to get into power... forget about 10 January ...read article  properly and get off your cloud”.
Article 231 of the constitution only states that the new president should take the oath in front of the national assembly on that date, 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.
New elections should be called within 30 days if a president becomes permanently absent, but that absence is defined as death, resignation, or permanent physical or mental incompetence certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Court.
MUD leaders have said in the past few days that the 10 January date is unpostponable, and that if Chavez were absent on that day, “absolute absence” would have to be declared. Opposition constitutional lawyer Ricardo Antela said the only way postponing would be possible is if “by the tenth there was a medical guarantee, publically declared and supported by the national assembly, that the president will recover, and a new date is decided on”.
However the opposition candidate in the October presidential elections, Henrique Capriles, agreed with government officials, stating, “It’s important to be very serious and transparent regarding this, a person who can’t swear-in on the established day, doesn’t lose his/her condition as president-elect”.
Chavez’s health and private media rumours
Rumours continue regarding Chavez’s progress recovering from his operation for cancer. The Spanish agency ABC reported that “Chavez had a tracheotomy”, a rumour which has since been repeated by English media as well, including the Miami Herald. The ABC reported on 22 December that Chavez is on “artificial respiration” after the supposed tracheotomy.
The ABC article also stated that “post operation complications are accumulating” and that Chavez is getting worse. It says the tracheotomy was necessary after the respiratory infection. Venezuelan government officials have informed the public of the infection, but haven’t mentioned the other complications referred to by the ABC, including “liquid in his lungs” and a “serious renal deficiency”.
The ABC, which sites its source as “intelligence sources with access to [Chavez’s] medical reports” even named the type of cancer Chavez has as “pelvic cancer”, even though neither Chavez nor the government have ever confirmed the location of Chavez’s reoccurring cancer.
However, yesterday Maduro spoke on public television VTV, saying he had spoken directly with Chavez for 20 minutes, who is “walking, doing exercises as part of his daily treatment routine” and gave Maduro “a range of work orders”.
Maduro spoke to Chavez just before midnight last night, which is when most Venezuelans celebrate Christmas. He said Chavez asked him to “greet all the people of Venezuela, especially the boys and girls, on day of the birth of Jesus”.
Chavez underwent his fourth operation for a reoccurring cancer in Havana, Cuba, on 11 December.