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Venezuela lawmakers postpone Chavez swearing-in

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 9, 2013 at 7:34 am •  Published: January 9, 2013

Capriles said earlier Tuesday that Chavez's current term constitutionally ends Thursday and that the Supreme Court should rule in the matter.

"There is no monarchy here, and we aren't in Cuba," he said.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected one legal challenge brought by an individual lawyer, Otoniel Pautt Andrade, who had argued that it would violate the constitution for Cabello to refuse to assume the presidency provisionally if Chavez were unfit to be sworn in on the set date. The ruling didn't provide a detailed interpretation of the constitution.

In the debate set off by the announcement that Chavez would not return from Cuba for the inauguration, opposition lawmaker Omar Barboza urged Chavez's allies to accept Cabello as interim president while Chavez recovers, saying that this was to avoid an "institutional crisis."

Barboza said that a "temporary absence" should be declared, which would give the president 90 days to recover, and which could be renewed for another 90 days.

Some lawmakers called for a medical team to be formed to determine the state of Chavez's health. Some also questioned why the letter announcing the decision was signed by the vice president rather than Chavez himself.

"Who's governing Venezuela? In Venezuela, Havana is governing, and that's the problem we have," opposition congressman Julio Borges said during the debate.

Maduro has called the swearing-in a "formality" and said the opposition is erroneously interpreting the constitution. Chavez has said that if he's unable to continue on as president, Maduro should take his place and run in an election to replace him.

As he announced lawmakers' approval, Cabello said: "President Chavez, this honorable assembly grants you all the time you need to tend to your illness."

Jorge Rodriguez, a Caracas district mayor and campaign manager in recent elections, accused the opposition of fomenting a "conspiracy" against Chavez's government. He insisted that Chavez remains president despite his health problems and pointed out that the National Assembly had granted the president permission to travel to Cuba for his operation.

Constitutional law expert Henrique Sanchez Falcon, a professor at Central University of Venezuela, said the government's position "is absolutely contrary to what's established under the constitution, which says that the term lasts six years."

The government said on Monday that Chavez was in a "stable situation" receiving treatment due to a severe respiratory infection. The government says he's coping with "respiratory deficiency," but hasn't said how severe it is.

Capriles urged Latin American leaders not to come to Venezuela, asking them to instead demand that the Venezuelan Constitution be upheld.

The governments of Bolivian President Evo Morales and Uruguayan President Jose Mujica announced that they would travel to Caracas, where the Venezuelan government said various Latin American leaders were expected to attend a gathering on Thursday.


AP Interactive: