CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — An opponent of Hugo Chavez alleged Sunday that conflicts are brewing within Venezuela's ruling party and argued that alleged differences between the president's close confidants have prompted them to seek to postpone the socialist leader's inauguration.
Opposition lawmaker Julio Borges told a news conference Sunday that a rivalry between Vice President Nicolas Maduro and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello was behind their comments that Chavez's swearing-in ceremony on Thursday could be postponed if necessary. Chavez has not been able to return to Venezuela from Cuba following a Dec. 11 operation, his fourth surgery for an undisclosed type of pelvic cancer.
"While the president is sick in Havana, they have a power conflict," Borges said. "That's why they are engendering this violation of the constitution."
The Venezuelan Constitution states the presidential oath should be taken before lawmakers in the National Assembly on Jan. 10, this Thursday. But it says the president may also take the oath before the Supreme Court if the president is unable to be sworn in before the assembly.
The government revealed last week that Chavez is fighting a severe lung infection and receiving treatment for "respiratory deficiency."
There have been no public signs of friction between Maduro and Cabello, who appeared side by side waving to supporters after a legislative session on Saturday. The two men have repeatedly rejected speculation they are at odds and have vowed to remain united.
"Come here, Nicolas. You're my brother, friend. They don't understand that," Cabello said, hugging Maduro before the crowd outside the assembly.
Borges, however, alleged that the two men were putting on a show.
"That big hug between Nicolas Maduro and Diosdado Cabello was set up to reflect unity that does not exist," he said.
In a statement posted Sunday on Twitter, former vice president and prominent ruling party member Elias Jaua stressed the need to work together.
"We are obligated ... to remain united in this and any other situation," Jaua wrote.