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Venezuela's VP in Havana to see Chavez, family

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 11, 2013 at 8:46 pm •  Published: January 11, 2013

Maduro was designated by Chavez last month as his chosen successor. Maduro said that while he is in Cuba, Electricity Minister Hector Navarro will remain in charge of affairs as acting vice president. The vice president didn't say when he would return.

Maduro's announcement came a day after the government gathered foreign allies and tens of thousands of exuberant supporters to celebrate the start of a new term for Chavez on Thursday, even as he was too ill to return home for a real inauguration.

Despite opposition claims that the constitution demands a Jan. 10 inauguration, the pro-Chavez congress approved delaying the inauguration and the Supreme Court on Wednesday endorsed the postponement, saying the president could be sworn in before the court at a later date.

Jailed former defense minister Raul Baduel urged his countrymen, especially the military, to resist what he called a "new constitutional coup" by Chavez's allies. The former military chief, who is in prison after being convicted of embezzlement and abuse of power, made the remarks in a vaguely worded letter that was released Friday.

Baduel has insisted he is innocent and dismissed the case against him as a politically motivated reprisal for his opposition to Chavez.

Though he didn't give details about what action he hoped the military would take, Baduel appeared to echo the argument by opposition politicians that Maduro and other Chavez allies are violating the constitution by remaining in office beyond the formal swearing-in date.

The Supreme Court has dismissed that argument, saying the date in the constitution isn't binding if an inauguration is performed before the court rather than the congress, where presidents usually take the oath of office.

Baduel also urged the governments of other countries "not to validate the constitutional coup d'etat that has been set in motion."

A high-ranking military chief, Maj. Gen. Wilmer Barrientos, said the military will respect and obey the Supreme Court's decision. He told the station Union Radio that those who question the court's decision should make their case through legal channels.

National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, a former military officer who is thought to have close ties to the armed forces, warned in a message on Twitter that Chavez's supporters should be "on alert for actions of violence" similar to bloodshed that preceded a failed 2002 coup against Chavez.

Chavez was briefly ousted in that coup, then was restored to power within two days with the help of military loyalists amid large protests in the streets by his supporters.


Associated Press writers Andrea Rodriguez in Havana and Carla Salazar in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.