Chavez Fights Respiratory Infection as His Health Stabilizes

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is continuing to fight a respiratory infection after cancer surgery in Cuba while his health stabilizes, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said.

“Chavez is good, he’s conscious,” Maduro said yesterday on state television. “The respiratory infection that was diagnosed is continuing to be treated and controlled by the medical team in a rigorous manner.”

The self-professed socialist is in a period of “absolute rest” and being visited by his brother Adan Chavez, his daughters, grandchildren and government officials including Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza and state lawyer Cilia Flores, Maduro said. National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez are traveling on a regular basis to Cuba, he said.

Maduro said Dec. 18 that Chavez was fighting a respiratory infection and in stable condition after his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months resulted in complications including bleeding. Top Venezuelan officials have left open the possibility that Chavez, 58, may not have to be sworn-in Jan. 10 to start a new six-year term, as stipulated in the country’s constitution.

“For any issue that needs to be settled, we’ve got the Constitutional Court, which has a great capacity to interpret the constitution,” Maduro said Dec. 19. “If needed, the court is a judicial and moral reserve of the republic.”

High Court

The country’s high court is open to any constitutional questions that might emerge if Chavez is not able to be sworn in for a new six-year term Jan. 10, Supreme Court President Luisa Estella Morales said yesterday on state television.

“For now, there is nothing to interpret because no doubts have been submitted to the court,” she said. “The swearing in of a president and continuity of government are constitutional issues, and the court is in condition to rule on any question that is brought up.”

Under Venezuelan law, if Chavez steps down before Jan. 10, Maduro would see out the rest of the current term and then hand over power to Cabello, who must call for an election within 30 days. If Chavez is unable to start his new term Jan. 10 but does not step down, the National Assembly president must determine if the absence is temporary or absolute.

“If the absence is absolute, he must call an election and take office in that period,” Jorge Pabon, a constitutional lawyer and former dean of the law school at the Central University of Venezuela, said Dec. 19 in a telephone interview.

Great Battle

Cabello told reporters Dec. 18 that there are precedents for delaying inaugurations in Venezuela, El Nacional reported.

Chavez has been sending instructions back to Venezuela and was happy with the results of regional elections held on Dec. 16, Maduro said.

“He’s fighting a great battle with discipline and faith,” Maduro said yesterday. “We are going to keep praying to bring all of our energy to the president. The happy day of having him here in Venezuela again with his image, strength and message will arrive.”

The former paratrooper first told Venezuelans he had cancer in June 2011 after undergoing surgery in Cuba to drain an abscess from his pelvic area during which he said doctors discovered a baseball-sized tumor in the same area.

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To contact the reporters on this story: Jose Orozco in Caracas at; Corina Pons in Caracas at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at

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