Ailing Chavez, still in Cuba, won't attend inauguration
A supporter of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez poses for a portrait as he holds a photograph of Chavez outside the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. / AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos
Updated 8:30 p.m. ETCARACAS, Venezuela Venezuela's National Assembly has approved a plan for President Hugo Chavez not to attend his scheduled inauguration this Thursday and to instead be sworn in later on before the Supreme Court.
Chavez's congressional allies hold a majority of seats in the National Assembly, and they backed the proposal with a show of hands.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced Chavez, still recovering from illness in Cuba, would be unable to attend the swearing-in ceremony in a letter to National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello. The letter said on the recommendation of Chavez's medical team, his recovery process "should be extended beyond Jan. 10" and for that reason he won't be able to attend Thursday's scheduled inauguration.
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Chavez's supporters argue that the Venezuela constitution allows the president to be sworn in at a later date by the Supreme Court.
The Venezuelan leader's opponents, however, disagree on his interpretation of the law. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said Tuesday the constitution is clear that the current presidential term ends on Jan. 10. Other opposition leaders have argued that the inauguration cannot legally be put off and that the National Assembly president should take over as interim president if Chavez hasn't returned from Cuba on inauguration day.
Vice President 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.
Capriles said, however, that "Maduro wasn't elected."
Chavez hasn't spoken publicly since before his Dec. 11 surgery in Cuba. The government said on Monday Chavez was is in a "stable situation" in a Cuban hospital receiving treatment due to a severe respiratory infection.
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